Minnesota's Family Law Blog

What is a paternity action?

In Minnesota if you are not married and have a child you will have to have to file a law suit called a “paternity action” where the court will determine who the father is (even if there is no doubt in anyone’s mind), this may or may not include a DNA test.  Often at the hospital a Recognition of Paternity Action (ROP) is presented to and signed by the father.  A ROP will give basic and limited rights to fathers, usually limited to prohibiting the mother from giving the child up for adoption and requiring child support be paid.

A father or mother must go to court and start a “paternity action” in court in order to establish:

  • Legal Custody
  • Physical Custody
  • Parenting Time

Once the paternity action has been started in a Minnesota Court, the case proceeds like most custody cases, that is the court will use the best interest standard to determine custody an parenting time.

Some common questions that I get about paternity:

I signed the Recognition of Parentage (ROP) at the hospital, is that the same as being “adjudicated the father” by a court?

No.  the ROP is a document that does give you very limited legal rights such as not allowing the child to be adopted without informing you.  But, for the common issues of seeing your child or custody, the ROP has no impact.

Does dad have any rights if the child is born and he wasn’t married to the mother?

No.  Remember, Minnesota doesn’t have common law marriage and as such if the child is born to an unmarried woman, the father, whomever it might be, has no rights until the Minnesota Family Court adjudicates him the father.

If I don’t sign the ROP, does that mean I won’t have to pay child support?

No, the ROP has no impact on child support.  If the child’s mother wants to try and receive child support OR the county is involved giving either the mother or child assistance, then one of the entities can bring an action to adjudicate the father and seek child support.  Once caveat, is that if you sign the ROP, it is presumed you are father and if it is possible that you may not be, you may want to consider if it is worth signing the ROP.

Can my child’s mother just move to another state if there is no court order?

Yes, Minnesota law is crystal clear on this point, unless you have an order granting you specific parenting time, the child and her mother can move anywhere she likes.  To stop this you will need to go to court and get

My child’s mother and I signed a piece of paper saying I’m the dad, is that good enough?

No.  Unfortunately, being named father to a child is pretty serious and you need a court order adjudicating you the father.

What’s next?

If you are need of a paternity action establish your legal rights as father OR you have been served with papers starting a paternity action, call us today at 507-625-5000.  We will be happy to discuss what we can do for you so that you know all of your legal rights regarding the paternity action.

Kohlmeyer Hagen Law Office Chtd.