Many people believe that if a couple agree who the father of a child his, he has paternal rights and obligations. That is true if the couple is married. However, if they were not wed when the child was born, those rights and obligations are not automatic in Minnesota. The rules regarding this matter can vary from state to state, and there are procedures that need to be followed if paternity is to be proved in Minnesota.
The Difference Between a Legal and a Biological Father
Before you can understand the laws, you have to know the background to them. Every child born has a biological father, but they do not all have a legal father. A biological father has no paternal rights unless he is married to the mother or he establishes paternity. It is a legal father who will have parental rights and obligations.
According to Minnesota paternity laws, one way to establish paternity is by a voluntary declaration. This involves both parents signing a legal document known as a ‘Recognition of Parentage Form’, which must be done in front of a notary. It is common for this to be done in the hospital when the child is born, but it is not a legal requirement that both parents sign at the same time.
Once the form has both signatures it has to be filed with the Minnesota Department of Health. It does not cost anything to do this, and once it is filed paternity is established.
This system can also be used if a child is born in a marriage, but the husband is not the child’s father. As long as the husband signs a ‘Husbands Non-Paternity Statement’ before the child’s first birthday, the child’s biological father can complete the recognition form along with the mother and gain paternal rights. In this situation, the birth certificate can also be changed to show the correct father on it.
Involuntary establishment of paternity is dealt with through the courts. Either the mother or father can file the court action, or if the child is in receipt of public assistance, the case can be filed by the Minnesota County Attorney. The case has to be filed with the District Court that covers the area where the child resides. The court may order DNA or genetic testing if either parent denies paternity, and often the party disputing it will have to pay the test fees if the paternity is proven.
The court has the power to make a biological father a legal father and to give him all the rights and obligations that go with it.
The Benefits of Paternity
As well as having their fathers name on their birth certificate, paternity gives the father visitation rights, although how much they see the child may be determined by a court. It also means that the father can include the child on their healthcare insurance, and the child will have inheritance rights if their father dies.
There are benefits of paternity for both the father and the child, and these generally outweigh the possibility of the father having to pay to support the child if the relationship with the mother has broken down.