“Paternity” is the legal term used in Minnesota law to refer to the “legal” father of a child. The legal father may or may not be the biological father and may be different from the person originally named as the father on a child’s birth certificate. Being deemed the legal father of a child has many legal consequences. A legal father is responsible for financially supporting a child and may also seek custody and parenting time.
If you have any questions about the paternity of a child, we’ll explain Minnesota law regarding paternity issues, explain your options with respect to pursuing or defending against a paternity claim, and formulate a strategy for aggressively protecting your rights.
Under Minnesota law, if a child’s mother was married to a man when a child was born, or the child is born within 280 days after the marriage ended, the man is presumed to be the father of the child. In Minnesota, if a woman wasn’t married when she gave birth, there are two ways to establish paternity and deem a man the legal father. This can be done through either a Recognition of Parentage or by bringing a paternity action.
The first method of establishing paternity, a Recognition of Parentage, requires the mother and a man to agree that he is the father of the child. If they agree, they can sign a form called a Recognition of Parentage and file it with the Office of Vital Statistics. The Recognition of Parentage has serious legal consequences and should not be signed if there is any doubt about the identity of the biological father. For example, once the Recognition of Parentage has been signed and filed, the county may seek from the father back child support for the previous two years or for the years going back to the child’s birth, whichever is earlier. If there is doubt about whether the man is the child’s biological father, he can have genetic testing done, either privately or at the county child support office.
After a Recognition of Parentage is signed, either party can revoke it within 60 days. After the 60 days have passed, if a party wants to revoke it, the party has one year to bring an action to revoke it. If genetic testing later shows that the man who signed the Recognition of Parentage is not the father, a court action to revoke the Recognition of Parentage can be brought within 6 months of the time the test results were available.
If the mother was married at the time the child was born, but not to the biological father, the spouse will be presumed to be the legal father of the child, but the mother and biological father can still sign a Recognition of Parentage. However, the non-father spouse also has to sign a Spouses Non-parentage Statement within a year after the child’s birth and file it with the Office of Vital Records. Once the Office receives both the Recognition of Parentage and the Spouses Non-parentage Statement, the Office will put the father’s name on the child’s birth record. If the spouse later changes his mind, he has 60 days to revoke his Spouses Non-parentage Statement.
The parties have one year after the Recognition of Parentage was signed to bring a court action to revoke the Recognition of Parentage and Spouses Non-parental Statement. But if genetic testing indicates that the man who signed the Recognition of Parentage is not the father, the parties have 6 months from the completion of the test results to bring an action to revoke the Recognition of Parentage and Spouses Non-parentage Statement.
A Recognition of Parentage itself does not give the legal father any custody or parenting rights. However, it does give the father the right to go to court to have those rights granted to him.
The second way to establish paternity in Minnesota is to bring a court action called a paternity adjudication. A paternity adjudication can be brought by the mother, certain men who are considered “presumed” fathers under Minnesota’s parentage statute, the child (through a guardian), a county child support representative or a grandparent or representative of the mother or father if the mother or father is deceased or a minor.
In a paternity adjudication, the court will determine whether a man is or is not the father of a child. If the man is determined to be the father, the court may also grant him custody or parenting time and require him to pay child support.