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Legal News in Minnesota

Paternity: Am I the Legal Father?

Personal Injury Farrish Johnson

In Minnesota, “paternity” is used to refer to the “legal father” of a child. The biological father is not always the legal father and only the legal father has the rights and responsibilities of a father under the law. Minnesota law requires a party to bring an action to establish a “legal father.” There is no question about who the mother is since she gave birth to the child. Because a father cannot be decided in the same way, the legal system waits for a signed Recognition of Parentage (ROP) or a court order that names a legal father. Only then can the father get the rights and responsibilities that are part of being a legal father.

In order to determine the father-child relationship, an action may be brought by various individuals at various times. Minn. Stat. § 257.55, subd. 1. In Minnesota, there are two ways in which a party may establish paternity if a child was born out of wedlock: (1) Recognition of Parentage and (2) Genetic Testing.

Recognition of Parentage

The mother and father of a child born to a mother who was not married to the child’s father, nor to any other man when the child was conceived, nor when the child was born, may in a writing, signed by both parties, notarized, and filed with the state registrar of vital statistics, state and acknowledge that they are the biological parents of the child and wish to be so recognized. Minn. Stat. § 257.75, subd. 1. Such an instrument is referred to as a Recognition of Parentage. Typically, this document is signed at the hospital where the child is born; however, parties can sign this document at any time before a notary public and submit it to the Department of Vital Statistics.

A Recognition of Parentage has the force and effect of a judgment or order determining parentage. Minn. Stat. § 257.75, subd. 3.

Genetic Testing

The second alternative to determine parentage if a Recognition of Parentage does not exist is by participating in a blood or genetic test. The accuracy in identifying biological fathers has risen to 99.99% when done through genetic testing. Such tests may be ordered by the court at its own discretion, and, upon the request of a party, the court must require that testing be performed. Minn. Stat. § 257.62, subd. 1. The child, the mother, and the alleged father must each be tested. All genetic testing must be performed by a qualified expert appointed by the court.


Paternity adjudication is only relevant to children born outside of wedlock. In Minnesota, the law presumes that the husband is the legal father of a child born to his wife during the marriage.

If you think you may need assistance establishing paternity, please call a family law attorney at 507-625-2525 to schedule a free initial consultation.