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Asserting Your Rights As A Father

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 Minnesota Paternity Adjudication and Recognition of Parentage (ROPs)

With greater numbers of unmarried couples living together than in past generations, fathers may increasingly find themselves in the position of having a child but yet not being officially recognized as the child’s father. 

If the father and mother’s relationship is subsequently broken off, this can have an impact on the father’s rights regarding the child; for instance, an unmarried father has no right to either custody of, or parenting time with, a child.  If your relationship with your child’s mother has ended and you are concerned about your custody rights, or even if you and your child’s mother currently have an amicable arrangement in place, you may want to consider one of the following routes to official recognition as your child’s father. 

Keep in mind that what is now an amicable and friendly relationship with your child’s mother won’t necessarily stay that way, and you don’t want to lose out on time with your child if that should happen.

The following are two options for establishing your rights as a father; determining which option is best for you is something that your attorney can offer advice on.

Recognition of Parentage (ROP)

Under Minnesota’s recognition of parentage (ROP) law, unmarried parents can sign a document indicating that they are the biological parents of a child.  If the parents sign a ROP, the father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate upon presentation of a certified copy of the recognition form to the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.   This ROP is usually signed at the hospital when the child is born, but it can be signed anywhere and at any time.

Signing an ROP establishes a legal relationship between the father and the child, but it is important to note that it does not, on its own, give the father the right to custody of the child or even to parenting time with the child.  In order to get these rights, the father must also bring a petition to award custody or parenting time.  However, until an order granting custody or parenting time is entered, the mother has sole custody.  This may not seem fair but it is the reality of the law in Minnesota.

I feel I need to explain a little more about this.  A ROP, on it’s own, doesn’t really give you and legal rights to the child.  Until a Judge orders it, you can’t call the police to ask to see your child or even take the child without the mother’s permission.  

It doesn’t matter if the child lived with you for 5 years, if you weren’t married and there is no court order the father is out of luck.

If the ROP is not revoked within 60 days after its execution, if there is no presumed father, or if no other man has signed a recognition of parentage, the recognition has the same force and effect of a court order determining the existence of the parent and child relationship.  So, be aware that signing an ROP has significant legal consequences, and talk to your attorney beforehand.

Court-ordered paternity adjudication

Another option for becoming officially recognized as your child’s father is to obtain a court-ordered paternity adjudication.  Minnesota law allows a man “presumed to be the child’s father” or a man who is a “putative father” to bring an action in court to establish the existence of the father-child relationship. 

This means that there may sometimes be two steps to the process under this law:  first, the man has to be show that he is either the presumed father or a putative father, and second, the man has to establish that the court should determine that he is actually the father.

A person can be a “presumed father” on meeting one of several conditions set out in the law, such as the man’s name being listed on the child’s birth certificate or the man having acted as though the child were his biological child. 

A “putative father” is someone who does not meet any of these conditions but alleges to the court that he is the father.  A putative father who is not a presumed father, upon filing an affidavit establishing the reasonable possibility that he could be the biological father of a child who already has a presumed father, may bring an action to compel the mother and the child to undergo blood or genetic tests to determine whether he is a presumed father.

Unlike with a ROP, a court order of paternity means that you don’t need to go through a separate proceeding to be awarded custody and parenting time.  Instead, a father has been adjudicated the parent by a court order, he can seek custody and parenting time as part of the same court proceedings.

Hopefully this answers some of your paternity questions in Minnesota.

Information obtained in mankatofamilylaw.com may contain knowledgeable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matters, contact 507-625-5000.

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