Paternity actions in Minnesota can be confusing and overwhelming for many fathers. Here are the 5 most important things for fathers to know when entering a paternity action.
- Establishing Parental Rights. If you and the child’s mother are not married at the time of conception or the minor child’s birth, and you did not sign a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) for the minor child at the hospital, you will need to legally establish your paternity rights. Under Minnesota law, the mother has sole custody of the minor child until the father brings a formal action to establish his paternity, custody, and parenting time rights. Even if the father acknowledged his paternity by signing the Recognition of Parentage (ROP), the father must still bring an action to establish custody and parenting time. Until a father does so, the mother has sole legal and physical custody of the child.
- Issues Addressed in a Paternity Action. In a paternity adjudication, the Court will generally address paternity of the child, legal custody, physical custody, parenting time, and child support. A party may also request a formal name change for the minor child. A mother may also request back child support for a period up to two years prior to the proceeding if child support was not paid, and request reimbursement for the cost of pregnancy.
- County Involvement. If the mother applies for state public assistance or child support enforcement services through the county, the county attorney’s office will bring a paternity action against the father in the expedited court process in front of a child support magistrate. If the parties agree to custody and parenting time issues, the child support magistrate has the authority to enter an order reflecting the agreement. If the parties do not agree, the matter must be referred to a district court judge or referee.
- Genetic Testing. If you question whether or not you are the biological father of a child, you may request that the child submit to genetic testing. When the County brings a paternity action, they will often use genetic testing if there are one or more possible fathers. Genetic testing is extremely accurate if done through an accredited laboratory, and generally costs a couple hundred dollars. When in doubt, it is a good idea to conduct genetic testing.
- Father’s Adoption Registry. If you are concerned that the mother of your child may give up the child for adoption upon the child’s birth, you may file with the Minnesota Father’s Adoption Registry to preserve your right to notice of any adoption proceedings. Under Minnesota Law, parties are required to search the Father’s Adoption Registry for possible fathers and provide registered fathers with notice before an adoption can be finalized.