Establishing Custody & Parenting Time for a Biological Father Who is Not Married to the Child's Mother

September 28, 2011 - by Eric Anderson

It's common for people to have children while not married.  These parents are often able to cooperate without incident in raising their children.  However, if disputes arise, it is important to know that the Father in this situation has no legal rights to custody or parenting time without a court order.  This is because under Minnesota law, the Mother of a child - who was not wed to the Father when the child was conceived - has sole legal and physical custody of the child until paternity and custody is determined by a court.

Before a biological, unmarried Father can seek custody or parenting time, the Father must establish his paternity of the minor child.  Paternity can be established two different ways:  (1) Signing and filing a Recognition of Parentage (ROP); or (2) Adjudication of Paternity by Court action.  Signing a ROP typically takes place at the hospital when the child is born and is then filed with the State.  Adjudication of Paternity happens when no ROP has been signed.  A court action is then commenced to determine paternity, either by genetic testing or through thorough testimony.  

Either parent (and several other parties) can commence paternity proceedings.  The proceedings are often initiated by the County when the Mother or child is receiving public assistance.  The County wants to establish paternity so that child support can be collected from the Father in order to recoup the expenditure by the County.  Child support cannot be collected from a Father without first establishing paternity.  

Once the Father has established his paternity of a minor child, the Father has the right to petition the court for custody and parenting time.  It is important to note that paternity by itself does not give the Father a right to custody or parenting time.  Paternity establishes the right to petition for custody and parenting time.  The court then looks to the best interests of the child in determining the appropriate custody designation and parenting time award.

If you have questions about this process or are thinking about bringing either a paternity or a custody/parenting time action, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a family law attorney.  

Disclaimer: No case or client-specific information shall be discussed on this website. The content provided is informational only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about divorce or custody in Minnesota , please seek the advice of an attorney.