This is a legal process to establish the biological father of a minor child. Paternity is an issue when a child is born to parents who are not married. The mother or father may initiate a paternity action. Paternity is usually settled at the child’s birth when the mother and father sign a Minnesota Recognition of Parentage form. The parties may submit to a paternity test generally at their own expense.

Once paternity is established, legal and physical custody, visitation, and child support must be determined.


Common questions about paternity law in Minnesota

What are the paternity laws in Minnesota?

When a child is born to parents who are not married to one another, the child only has one legal parent – the mother. Minnesota Statute Section 257.541, subdivision 1 says, “(T)he biological mother of a child born to a mother who was not married to the child’s father when the child was born and was not married to the child’s father when the child was conceived has sole custody of the child until paternity has been established” in Minnesota. Fair or not, this is the law.

The unmarried father who wants paternity established so he can be legally recognized as the child’s biological parent must file a court action to be adjudicated, or legally determined to be, the father. This will then open the door to having legal and physical custody established along with a parenting time schedule for the school year, summer, and holidays.

Must an unmarried father bring a paternity case?

No, but a child without a legal father will have difficulty inheriting anything from the possible father upon his death. There will also be difficulty receiving Social Security benefits from the father if he dies when the child is 17 years old or younger.

Can you force someone to have a paternity test?

No, however, a judge can order a possible father to take a paternity test. However, the judge will have to address if one or both of the parents must pay the cost of the test or if the county in which the paternity court case is taking place is going to shoulder the expense.

How to establish paternity in Minnesota?

The simple yet complicated answer requires: Filing paperwork with the court in the county in which the child lives and having at least one court hearing with a judge. Establishing paternity requires court involvement and eventually a court order signed by a judge declaring who the biological – and legal – father is of a child. While no one really wants to go to court, unmarried fathers have zero legal rights to a child without bringing a paternity case in court. Until then, a child only has one legal parent which is the mother and she has the sole authority to decide when and if the child sees him.

How much does a paternity test cost in Minnesota?

The cost varies depending upon which county in Minnesota the court case is taking place. IT also varies depending on if the judge requires the county to pay for it. The county is ordered to pay for the cost of the paternity test if one or both of the parents receive public assistance, for example, child care assistance or medical assistance. The mother and possible father who do not receive public assistance are often ordered to pay one-half of the cost of the private test, which can cost between $400.00 to $600.00.

Paternity test companies require the child, the mother, and the possible father to all give DNA samples. Those who do not like needles are in luck because the DNA sample is provided through a cheek swab of the mouth rather than through a blood sample.

Can a parent refuse to take a DNA test?

DNA tests are readily available at Walgreens and other retailers, and the results are received in a week or two. While having quick and easy access to these tests is helpful, courts rarely recognize these over-the-counter tests because they lack the ability to track chain of custody, a legal concept involving the collection, movement, processing, and location of the DNA samples when they are obtained until the test results are received in court.

There are several companies that conduct court-recognized DNA tests. Their process involves the parties providing an ID at the time of collecting saliva or a cheek swab and photographing the participants, including the child, in order to prove it was them having their DNA taken. The separately taken and packaged samples are sent to a laboratory that has very controlled methods to process the DNA samples and to mail the results to each parent and their attorney. These processes provide a very clear chain of custody to eliminate errors with the testing process or taking DNA from the wrong participant.

A parent can refuse to take a DNA test, but if one is court-ordered to take a test it is best to follow the court order and comply. Non-compliance can lead to a parent being found in civil contempt of court which can cause a parent to be arrested and jailed for some period of time until the parent agrees to participate in the test.

Have more questions for a paternity attorney?

If you need to talk to a paternity attorney, please schedule an initial consultation appointment online and fill out the Consultation Intake Form. She can help you navigate the paternity laws in Minnesota.