Establishing paternity in Minnesota: A brief look

While not dead by any means, more and more young people are not seeing the institution of marriage as a perquisite for having children. In a recent survey, only 30 percent of people surveyed in the 19-to-29 age range thought a successful marriage was one of the most important things in their lives and 66 percent did not think being an unmarried couple and having children was bad for society in general. Figures from the latest census show that 1.5 million families in this country involve children living with unmarried parents. That number is growing.

These points bring up the issue of paternity. Marriage automatically provides parents certain legal rights, particularly custody rights, but parents who are not married are not automatically bestowed such crucial rights. There parental rights must be established through a different legal route, paternity. The scenarios where paternal rights are important seem endless: Things between the couple go south before the child is born; things go south after the child is born and after the couple has coparented the child for some time; and things continue to go well, but the couple is concerned.

Ways to establish paternity

Minnesota law provides that a mother and father of a child born to a mother who is not married to the child's father can both execute a sworn acknowledgement that must be on a specific form provided by the state. On the form, the parties acknowledge that they are the biological parents of the child and the acknowledgment must then be filed with the state registrar of vital statics. That acknowledgment can be revoked within the next 60 days; if only the father wishes to evoke, a copy of the revocation is forwarded by the registrar of vital statics to the mother. If the recognition has been properly executed and the time for revocation has passed, the issue of paternity is settled and no court can allow an action to contest that acknowledgement. In the future, that acknowledgment can stand as a basis for the father to petition a court for custody or parenting time, as well as serve as the basis or an award of child support.

It must be noted that if the mother is otherwise married at the time the child was born, the husband is the presumptive father and the rules are somewhat different for establishing the biological father as the legal father.

If the parties do not execute this acknowledgement, then paternity must be established through an adjudication of paternity proceeding. Unless the parties openly acknowledge paternity in court, genetic blood testing will likely be ordered. Under Minnesota law, if the results show a probability of paternity greater than 99 percent, then there is a presumption that the alleged father is in fact the father of the child and the burden shifts to him to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is not.

Anyone with questions about the ramifications of having a child outside of marriage, or anyone who is involved in a dispute over paternity, be it mother or father, should consult with an experienced Minnesota family law attorney.