Paternity cases involve the same child-related issues as a divorce, but also include the adjudication of paternity. Minnesota law provides that unwed mothers have sole authority over the upbringing of a child until a court order grants a father custodial rights or parenting time. For that reason, many fathers pursue their rights early in the life of their child.
In Minnesota, there are three main issues involved in a paternity case: (1) adjudication of paternity; (2) custody and parenting time; and (3) child support.
Issues involving the property of unwed couples are not addressed in a paternity matter. Instead, the parties to the relationship are left to address their rights in a separate district court action.
Our paternity lawyers in Minnesota can expertly guide you through the adjudication process. Adjudication of paternity involves a determination that an individual is, or is not, the father of a particular child.
Adjudication can be accomplished through the execution of Recognition of Parentage. These documents are often referred to as a “ROP.”
Following the birth of a child, the purported father of the newborn will be afforded an opportunity to affirm, under oath, that he is the child’s parent, by signing the Recognition of Parentage form. The process of doing so typically occurs at the hospital in the hours following the birth of a child.
Once executed, the ROP is filed with the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services. No further court action will be necessary to confirm that an individual is, indeed, the father of the child that is the subject of the Recognition.
In situations in which no Recognition of Parentage has been executed, the Court will be involved in making a judicial adjudication of paternity.
Two options exist in Court. A man is allowed to attest, under oath, that he is, indeed, the father of a child. If mother agrees, no further verification is required. However, the Court may order the man, and child, to submit to genetic testing, if there is a dispute concerning paternity.
Genetic testing is nothing to fear, and involves a simple swab to the inside of the mouth of the purported father and the child. Saliva samples are sent to a qualified lab for matching. Our paternity attorneys in Minnesota are here to walk you through all aspects of this process to provide you with the results you deserve.
Custody and Parenting Time
The custody and parenting time issues involved in a paternity case are identical in nature to those involved in a divorce, with one significant exception.
Unlike a divorce, in a paternity case the father of a child has no legal right to spend time with that child, or physical or legal custodial rights, until ordered by a judge. It is for that reason that many fathers elect to pursue matters early in the life of the child – even if they maintain a good relationship with the mother of the child.
Issues such as physical custody (day to day decision-making for the child), legal custody (major life decisions involving education, religion and healthcare), and parenting time schedules are key.
Parents can share joint physical or legal custody, or one parent can have sole physical or legal custody of a minor child. Parenting time schedules vary widely, depending upon the age of the child, the proximity of the parties, and the involvement of each in the upbringing of the child.
For all custody and parenting time issues, the “best interest of the child” standard governs. Our child custody page offers more detail and our team of experienced paternity lawyers in Minnesota are here to help, every step of the way.
Naturally, parents have a legal obligation to support a minor child. This includes financial support in the form of child support. Even a “presumed father” (not formally adjudicated) may be held accountable for child support in a paternity matter.
In paternity cases, the relevant child support issues are identical to those found in a divorce, with a few exceptions involving: (1) pregnancy expenses; and (2) retroactivity of support.
As part of an ongoing support obligation in a paternity case, a father may be held individually accountable for the pregnancy and birthing expenses associated with a minor child. Quite often, thousands of dollars in medical costs are pursued.
In addition, unlike a divorce, a mother in a paternity action may seek child support retroactive for up to two years prior to the support order.
In Minnesota, child support involves three distinct components: (1) basic support; (2) medical support; and (3) daycare support. The basic support involves a cash payment from one parent to the other on a monthly basis. Medical support involves a division of medical insurance premiums and uninsured medical expenses. Daycare support involves a division of work-related childcare costs.
Our child support page offers more information straight from our esteemed firm of paternity lawyers in Minnesota concerning the nature of child support, and how support obligations are calculated.