The are a lot of children whose parents were never married.  Often I am asked questions, by both fathers and mothers, about parental rights in these situations.

Here’s the deal: in Minnesota, if you are the father of a child born out of wedlock, you have no parental rights unless and until a district court enters an Order granting these rights.  You do not share legal or physical custody, you do not have the right to parenting time, you do not have the right for the child to have your last name, etc.  To repeat – you have no parental rights unless and until a district court enters an Order granting these rights.

What about the Recognition of Parentage that the father signed when the child was born?  The Recognition of Parentage gives the mother rights and it gives the county authority rights.  It gives them the right to make the father pay child support without a court proceeding and order to determine parentage.  Thats all that a Recognition of Parentage does.  It “gives” the father the obligation to pay child support, but no other rights.

Why is this?  Because maternity is a matter of fact, paternity is a matter of opinion.  Under Minnesota common law, which has been incorporated into statute for decades, if parties have a child and are not married, the mother has sole physical and sole legal custody, and is entitled to receive child support from the father.

So, what should a father do?  A father, who wants to be involved in his child’s life, should bring a proceeding to establish parentage (if he did not sign a Recognition of Parentage), physical and legal custody, parenting time, and child support.  Usually a proceeding like this can be resolved by an amicable agreement between the parents.  The agreement is submitted to the court and the court enters an order based on the agreement.

Usually, but not always.  If there is no agreement, in Minnesota there are various mediation and evaluation processes that the parties can go through.  If there still is no agreement, then the court decides.

There are things that a father can do to greatly improve his odds of success.  Contact me if you want to know more.