Paternity cases involve a situation in which the parents of a child are unmarried, yet the father of the child seeks to establish certain rights, including physical custody, legal custody and parenting time. The gateway to such a claim, however, involves the establishment of paternity in and of itself.

In Minnesota, there are just two ways to establish paternity: (1) the execution of a Recognition of Parentage; and (2) a judicial determination (court order) of a parent-child relationship.

A “parent-child relationship” is defined as “the legal relationship existing between a child and the child’s biological or adoptive parents incident to which the law confers or imposes rights, privileges, duties and obligations.” Naturally, the relationship can exist father-child and mother-child.

The Minnesota Parentage Act outlines a number of situations in which a father is presumed to be the parent of a child. Said presumptions, however, are subject to a timeframe for disproving paternity through genetic testing (typically a limited number of years).

A man is presumed to be the the biological father, pursuant to statute, if:

  • A child is born during a marriage, or within 280 days after the marriage is terminated; or
  • Before birth, a man and the biological mother of a child attempt to marry each other; or
  • After birth, a man and the biological mother of a child have married, or attempted to marry; or
  • While the child is under the age of majority, a man receives the child into his home and openly holds out the child as his own; or
  • The parents have executed a Recognition of Parentage.

Genetic testing indicating a probability greater than 99-percent also creates a presumption of paternity.

As briefly noted above, there are some timing requirements concerning actions (either by the mother, alleged father, child or public authority) to establish parentage, or actions to determine the non-existence of a parent-child relationship. They are as follows:

  • Until one year after the child reaches the age of majority (all cases without a presumed father);
  • Any time (cases to determine existence of relationship, with a presumed father under the “marriage” provisions listed above);
  • Within two years of learning of a reason to believe not father (cases to determine non-existence of relationship, with a presumed father under the “marriage” provisions listed above);
  • Any time (cases to determine existence of relationship, with a presumed father under the “holding out” provisions listed above);
  • Within six months (up to three years in some situations) of genetic tests showing no biological relationship (cases to determine non-existence of relationship, with “holding out” presumption.

In commencing an action, all presumed and alleged fathers must be joined in the action, in an effort to proceed with the determination of the parent-child relationship as efficiently as possible.