"Paternity" is a legal action to establish a father's parentage relationship. Paternity means fatherhood. A paternity action can be started at any time before the child's birth, or afterward by the child, the natural mother or her representative, the alleged father or his representative, or the public authority supporting the child.
In North Dakota, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if:
- The child was born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage was terminated by death, annulment, divorce, found invalid, or within 300 days after the parties separated;
- An acknowledgment of paternity was signed, not disputed by the mother, and was filed with the Department of Vital Records;
- The man openly held himself out to be the father; or
- Genetic tests show that the man is not excluded and the probability of paternity is 95% or higher.
In Minnesota, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if:
- The child was born during the marriage, or within 280 days after the marriage was terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, dissolution, or divorce, or after a decree of legal separation is entered by a court;
- The man has acknowledged his paternity of the child in writing and filed it with the state registrar of vital statistics; or with his consent, the man is named as the child's father on the child's birth record; or he is obligated to support the child under a written voluntary promise or by court order;
- The man openly holds out the child as his biological child;
- Genetic testing establishes that the man is not excluded and the probability of paternity is 99% or greater.
When a child is born to parents who are not married, the law gives sole legal and physical custody to the mother. If either parent wants a different custody arrangement, the parent will need to go to court.
In addition, if the parents cannot agree about how much time each should spend with the child, they will need to go to court to ask for a visitation/parenting time order. A father whose paternity is established through court can ask for parenting time, and legal or physical custody at that hearing.
There are two primary ways to establish paternity for unmarried parents:
- Signing a legal form called a Recognition of Parentage form; or
- Going to court.
If both parents are absolutely sure who the father is, a Recognition of Parentage form can be signed, notarized and filed by both parties. This can be done while the baby is in the hospital or at a later date.
After signing the Recognition of Parentage form, the mother will not be owed court-ordered child support. If court-ordered support is desired, she will need to get a court order. If the mother is receiving certain forms of government assistance, the child support enforcement agency may initiate a court action for child support and other forms of assistance from the father.
Signing the Recognition of Parentage form also gives the father the right to go to court to ask for a court order for parenting time, legal custody, physical custody, or other matters related to the child.
Genetic testing can be very important in a paternity case. In North Dakota, the court looks for a 95% probability or higher (in Minnesota, the genetic test must show a 99% probability or higher) to declare a man to be a child's father. If the genetic test shows a percentage less than the required number, he most likely will not be declared the father.
Thus, if a genetic test is taken, the genetic test will most likely determine the ruling as to whether he is the father.
The court has the authority to decide who will pay for the genetic testing.
Once paternity has been established, the man becomes the legal father of the child. If he does not live with the child, the court can order that he has all the rights and duties with respect to the child as a non-custodial parent.
The court may decide custody, visitation/parenting time, child support, and order medical insurance coverage to be paid. The child will also be eligible for government dependent benefits, tribal rights benefits, and inheritance rights from the father.
The father also has certain rights unless a court believes that granting these rights would endanger the welfare of the mother or the child. Some of these rights include:
- To have access to important records of the child, such as school or medical records;
- To be kept informed of the school that the child attends;
- To have school officials inform him about the child's progress in school;
- To have reasonable access to the child through the phone; and
- To be informed if the child suffers an accident or injury.
The information on this site is general in nature. Do not rely on any articles, postings or other information on these pages as legal advice. If you need legal advice about a particular matter, you should contact an attorney directly.