Paternity refers to the legal determination that a man is the father of a specific child. Establishing paternity is important in a number of legal contexts, including child support. It results in important obligations for the father, and significant legal rights for the father, child and mother.
In Minnesota, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if he is married to the biological mother when the child is born, or within 280 days after divorce. If a child is born to an unwed couple who later marry, there are several scenarios in which the man will be presumed to be the father. Paternity will be presumed if the man acknowledges paternity in a document filed with the state, if he consents to be listed as the father on the child's birth certificate, if he has made a written promise to support the child or is subject to a child support order with respect to the child.
If a man denies paternity, the biological mother can bring a legal action to have paternity determined by the court. The state can also bring such an action if the mother is receiving public benefits. The child can be a party to the action, in which case the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child. Once the action is commenced the court can order the alleged father to submit to blood and DNA testing. Other evidence of paternity or non-paternity can be introduced by the parties.
For an unwed mother, establishing paternity is a critical prerequisite to obtaining child support from the father. Once paternity is established the father has the right to seek custody and visitation. The child receives important rights as well, including the right to financial support and the right to inherit the father's property when he dies.
Source: Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes, Minn. Stat. §§ 257.541-.63, accessed July 17, 2016