Paternity

"Paternity" is the term used to refer to the "legal" father of a child under Minnesota law. Once a man is established as the "legal" father of a child, he has an obligation to financially support the child and he may ask a court order for custody and parenting time.
 

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What is "paternity?"
"Paternity" is the term used to refer to the "legal" father of a child under Minnesota law. Once a man is established as the "legal" father of a child, he has an obligation to financially support the child and he may ask a court order for custody and parenting time.

Every child has a biological father, but not every child has a "legal" father. Under Minnesota law, if a child's mom and dad are not married to each other when the child is born, the dad is not recognized as the "legal" father until someone takes legal steps to establish his paternity. He has no legal rights to the child or responsibilities to financially support the child, even if his name is on the child's birth certificate. The birth certificate alone is not enough to establish who is the "legal" father.
 
How can a man become the "legal" father of a child if he is not married to the mother?
If a man is not married to a child's mother when the child is born, he can become the "legal" father through the"Recognition of Parentage" (ROP)process or by Court Order. For more details, click on the link below that most closely matches your situation:
  1. An unmarried mother and father can sign a Recognition of Parentage ("ROP") form stating that they are the biological parents, and then file that form with the MN Dept. of Health.
  2. If you and the other parent disagree on who is the biological father of the child; OR an unmarried parent wants to get a court order for child support, custody, or parenting time, visit the Establish Paternity by Court Order tab on this page.
Resources on becoming a "legal" father: A mother in Minnesota who was not married at the time of her child's birth has sole custody until a Court issues a custody order.
By law, a mother who is not married at the time of her child's birth has sole custody of the child until a court issues a custody order, even if a father's name appears on the child's birth certificate. See Child Custody & Parenting Time for more details on how to get a court order for custody.

The law presumes that a husband is the "legal" father of a child born to his wife during the marriage.
If a woman is married and has a child by someone other than her husband, Minnesota law automatically presumes that her husband is the father and he will be legally responsible for the child until paternity is established with the other man. The biological father has no legal rights or financial obligations to the child, unless he is established to be the "legal" father.

Genetic Testing
If you want a genetic test to find out if you are the biological father of a child, you might not need a court order if the mother agrees to do the testing. If the parties agree, they can arrange for testing on their own.

A court may order genetic testing at the request of a public agency (e.g., Social Services, Child Support Office, etc.) or on its own initiative to show whether an alleged father is actually the biological father of a child.

A mother or alleged father may also ask the court to order genetic tests, but they must file an Affidavit (sworn statement) listing detailed facts that show there is a reasonable possibility that there was (or was not) sufficient sexual contact between the alleged father and the child's mother to conceive a child. See the law at MN Statute § 257.62 subd.1. Your County Child Support Office may have more information on genetic testing.

NOTE: The MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish forms and instructions to ask the court to order genetic testing. You should talk with a lawyer about your legal options and how to prepare the court papers.

If you have already signed a Recognition of Parentage form with the child's mother (usually at the Hospital or at the Child Support Office), you and the mother have voluntarily admitted that you are the biological father. If you now think that you may not be the father, your case is much more complicated, and you should talk with a lawyer about your legal options. You should also talk with a lawyer if there is a court Order stating that you are the legal father, and now you want genetic testing.

Father's Adoption Registry
If you think you may be the father of a child born to a woman who is not your wife, but paternity has not yet been established by a "Recognition of Parentage" form or court order, you can register with the MN Father's Adoption Registry no later than 30 days after the child's birth. The registry makes it possible for you to be notified if a Petition for Adoption of the child is ever filed in a Minnesota court.

Do you need court-ordered custody or child support?
Some unmarried parents can cooperate in raising their child without court orders on custody, support and parenting time. However, parents may want to take legal action when problems arise such as:
  • who may enroll the child in school and authorize medical treatment
  • the parent with primary custody may need financial support
  • a parent may need help getting adequate pareting time with the child
  • a parent may have serious concerns about the other parent's ability to safely care for the child
Signing a "Recognition of Parentage" form does not create any custody rights or support obligations. You need a court order to get custody or support. Read Child Custody & Parenting Time or Child Support for more information on those topics.

What if your child has an open CHIPS or Juvenile Delinquency case?
If your child is the subject of a Juvenile Court case (e.g., child in need of protection or services (CHIPS) or delinquency), it is possible that the Family Court may not be able to immediately decide custody in a separate case involving the child.

Going to Court without a lawyer?
You may represent yourself in a paternity case, however, we strongly encourage you to get legal advice from an attorney, especially if the mother and alleged father do not agree on paternity (and custody or support). The County Attorney's Office might be able to help you establish paternity to get child support.

Recognition of Parentage (ROP) Form

The Recognition of Parentage ("ROP") Form is an official state form with a fairly easy and inexpensive process that can be used to establish the legal relationship between a father and his child when a child's father and mother are not married. You can download the Recognition of Parentage Form and Instructions, which is made available by the MN Dept. of Human Services. Or, you can get a copy at your local County Child Support office. Hospitals may also provide the form to the parents at the child's birth. NOTE: If you have any doubt about the identity of the biological father, do not sign the ROP form.

The Recognition of Parentage form must be signed by the mother and father in front of a Notary and it must be filed with the MN Dept. of Health. To learn more, read the MN ROP law: MN Statute § 257.75.

NOTE: When a child is born, if the mother was married to a man who is not the biological father, the ROP form alone is not enough to establish the biological father as the "legal" father. The mother's husband must also sign a separate form called the Spouse's Non-parentage Statement within one year after the child is born.

Properly completing the ROP process, including the Spouse's Non-parentage Statement where applicable, establishes a "legal" relationship between the father and child.

Need copies of an ROP that was filed? The MN Dept. of Health website (scroll down the page) has a form you can download, fill out and send them along with a fee to get a certified copy of a previously filed ROP.


Get Legal Advice

Before signing a Recognition of Parentage form or Spouse's Non-parentage Statement, you should understand what it means to be a "legal" father and what rights and duties you might receive or be giving up by signing the forms. Establishing paternity is important for purposes of inheritance, adoption, benefits, parenting time, financial support, health care, school issues, and other reasons. We strongly encourage you to discuss any questions you have with a lawyer. See Find a Lawyer.

For more detailed information on the process involving a Recognition of Paternity form, click the following links to see helpful information booklets:

How to Revoke a Recognition of Parentage Form

It is possible to revoke the ROP within 60 days after both parents sign the form. To revoke the ROP, the mother or father must sign a written revocation in front of a notary and file it with the State. See the law at MN Statutes § 257.75 subd.2. The ROP can also be set aside by court order in limited circumstances. There are strict time limits to do this, so if you want to ask for a court order to revoke a ROP, get legal help right away. The court website does not have the forms to revoke a ROP or to ask for a court order revoking a ROP. You can get forms to handle a paternity case from your attorney, a legal publisher, or you could check with your local court administrator to find out if they distribute forms at the courthouse. You could also visit your local law library.
 

Recognition of Parentage Form Does NOT Grant Custody

The ROP form does not give any custody or parenting time to the father. The mother still has sole custody under Minnesota law. A parent or the county attorney must start a court action to request an order for custody, parenting time, or child support. You can learn about Child Custody & Parenting Time or Child Support on this website.
To get a Court Order establishing paternity, the dad, the mom, or the county attorney files papers to start a paternity case in the local District Court where the child or the "defendant" lives. If either parent receives public assistance for the child, the county attorney will start the paternity case on behalf of the public. The law allows for this so that the county can ask that the other parent be ordered to financially support his child.

In a paternity case, the court always decides if the "alleged" father is or is not the "legal" father.

IMPORTANT! The court may order genetic testing on its own initiative or at the request of a public agency to show whether an alleged father is actually the biological father of a child. The mother or alleged father may also ask the court to order genetic tests, but they must then file an Affidavit (sworn statement) alleging or denying paternity and stating facts that show there is a reasonable possibility that there was or was not sufficient sexual contact between alleged father and the child's mother to conceive a child. See the law at MN Statute § 257.62 subd.1. The County Child Support Offices can provide more information on genetic testing.

The court may also order payment of child support, decide who has custody of the child, and set a parenting time schedule, if asked by one of the parties.

CAUTION! If you are served with a "Summons and Complaint" for paternity, you need to respond with your own papers to protect your legal right to ask for genetic testing, deny or agree to paternity, and to have a "say" in the outcome regarding support and custody.
 
 
FormsThe MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish paternity forms to use if there is not a signed Recognition of Parentage form on file at the MN Dept. of Health. You may get forms to handle a paternity case from an attorney, a legal publisher, or you could check with your local court administrator to find out if they distribute paternity forms at your county courthouse. Your local law library may also have sample paternity and custody forms.

If paternity was established by you and the other parent signing a MN Recognition of Parentage "ROP" form AND it was filed with the MN Dept. of Health, and now you want to get a court order for custody and parenting time, click Establish Custody and Parenting Time Forms Packet.

If you were served with papers to establish paternity and you want to respond, you could get help from a lawyer or see if your local law library has sample forms. The MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish forms to respond to this type of case.
If you are representing yourself in a paternity case, you are responsible for following the same laws and rules as an attorney. The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that deal with paternity in Minnesota. See also Laws, Rules & Legal Research.
 

Laws & Rules on Paternity

The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that pertain to paternity in Minnesota. You can get more help with your legal research at law libraries in Minnesota. You should talk with a lawyer about how the laws and rules may affect your case.