Paternity must be established in order for the father of a child to seek physical custody, legal custody or parenting time with a child born outside of marriage. In the absence of establishing paternity, a father has no custodial rights, or the ability to exercise parenting time, unless the parties agree otherwise.

Minnesota law provides two ways for a father to establish paternity of a child: (1) a signed Recognition of Parentage; or (2) a court order.

A Recognition of Parentage (“ROP”) is signed by the parents of a child, at the hospital, shortly after the child’s birth. The execution of a ROP establishes the father-child link, allowing a father to move a court for physical custody, legal custody or parenting time.

In other circumstances, the mother, father or county (if public assistance has been received by mother) may establish paternity through a court proceeding. The father and child will participate in genetic testing to determine paternity. The issues of physical custody, legal custody and parenting time may be addressed in the same court case. A case may be filed in court anytime until the child reaches 18 years of age.