When children are born, there is no denying the special bond they share with their parents. For the first years of their lives, children rely on their parents to provide them with their basic needs, care for them, and teach them about the world. Since this bond is so special and important, many states including Minnesota have put laws in place to help protect children, their parents, and the relationship they share. When it comes to matters that appear in Minnesota family law court, we more often than not see the importance of the mother’s role in a child’s life, but the father’s role is equally important.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
While mothers have been most traditionally viewed as the caregivers of children, more and more court decisions are putting an increased emphasis on the role fathers play in a child’s life as well. Studies have shown that Minnesota fathers are equal to mothers in their ability to care for and support a child, not to mention children who have loving and involved fathers in their lives tend to do better academically and socially. Additionally, fathers are regarded as effective disciplinarians and also play an important role in the development of their child’s language skills.
Establishing Paternity in Minnesota
An important step in a father enforcing his parental rights is establishing the child’s paternity. In the state of Minnesota, when a married couple has a child, it is assumed the child’s mother’s husband is the child’s legal and biological father, and they do not need to take any additional steps in establishing paternity. When a couple is not married, however, they need to take additional legal steps in order to establish the father as the child’s legal and biological father in the eyes of the law. In the state of Minnesota, there are two ways in which fathers can establish paternity.
The first way a father can establish a child’s paternity is through a voluntary process. When both parents agree that the man in question is indeed the child’s biological and legal father, they can use this method to establish paternity. During this process, the mother and father sign what is known as a “Recognition of Parentage Form” in the presence of a notary public. Both parents are required to sign the form, but they do not have to sign the form at the same time – it is common, however, for both parents to complete the form when it is presented to them at the hospital.
Once the “Recognition of Parentage Form” has been signed, it needs to be filed with the Department of Health for the state of Minnesota, and paternity can only be established when the form has been filed. In situations where the child’s mother is married to another man who is not the child’s biological father, the husband must also fill out a “Husband’s Non-Paternity Statement” before the child turns one year of age. This form also needs to be filed with the Department of Health for the state of Minnesota, and once filed, the child’s birth certificate is updated with the correct father’s name.
The alternative way a father can establish a child’s paternity is through an involuntary process that includes a court proceeding. During this process, the court issues an “order of filiation,” which is the other way of establishing paternity. This method is considered involuntary since one of the parties involved in the case is disputing the child’s paternity. The child’s mother, the child’s presumed father, or the Minnesota County Attorney can file a court action for paternity – the County Attorney may file this type of action if the child is receiving any type of public assistance.
The party looking to establish paternity in the case is the “petitioner,” and the other party is the “defendant.” In order to begin the paternity case, the petitioner needs to file papers with his or her local District Court in the jurisdiction in which the child or defendant lives. If the alleged father denies or questions the child’s paternity, the court may order genetic or DNA testing. Should it be proved that the alleged father is indeed the child’s father, the court often moves to order the father pay for all or a portion of the DNA testing. Once paternity has been established, the court issues an “order of filiation,” which makes the father both the child’s legal and biological father.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
Once paternity in Minnesota has been established, it is not unlikely that the court moves to order custody for the child, especially if the parents are unmarried, not living together, or not in a relationship. Family court judges make Minnesota child custody decisions based on the “Best Interests of the Child” standard, meaning they approve or create a custody agreement that best benefits and supports the child regardless of what the parents’ desires are. In these cases, judges look at a number of different factors to help guide their decision making, and some of these factors include:
- Child’s Health
- Child’s Safety
- Child’s Emotional and Developmental Needs
- Child’s Educational Needs
- Cultural Factors
- Both Parents’ Parenting and Co-Parenting Skills
When these factors are considered, the child’s mother and father are treated equally, and the court places the child with the parent who best supports his or her specific needs and provides the best living environment from both an emotional and physical standpoint. If the father proves to be the child’s better caregiver and provider, it is likely the court orders the father to have primary custody, meaning the child resides with him the majority of the time.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Minnesota
In cases where primary custody is awarded to one parent, it is very likely that Minnesota child support is also ordered. Child support is a payment from the non-custodial parent to the primary custodial parent to help cover the expenses of raising and providing for the child. These payments are meant to be used to provide the child with shelter, clothing, food, education, and medical care as well as to cover any additional needs the child may have. A father with primary custody has an equal right to child support as a mother in the same position and also has access to Minnesota’s child support enforcement resources.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
For Minnesota fathers who are facing paternity issues, child custody issues, or child support issues, a lawyer who specializes in father’s rights and family law for the state of Minnesota can be an invaluable resource. These legal professionals are able to explain their client’s rights and also ensure these rights are honored and upheld in the court. Additionally, these lawyers are able to best position their client to receive a fair custody case as well as a fair child support case when these services are needed.