Unmarried Parents Rights and Responsibilities

By Allison Fredrickson | Family & Divorce Law

The birth of a new baby is a very exciting time for couples! You might take parenting classes if you are a new parent, or ready an older sibling for a new addition to the family. While it is not necessarily the most exciting consideration, parenting rights for unmarried parents are just as important when you are getting ready for a new baby. In the State of Minnesota, Mothers have sole legal and physical custody as soon as the baby is born until a Court Order says differently. Fathers must take additional steps to establish their parentage separately through the Court. It is important to discuss this topic with your partner because the issue will be front and center as soon as the baby is delivered.

For any unmarried couples, one of the first documents you will be presented with at the hospital is a Voluntary Recognition of Parentage. This document establishes a legal relationship between a father and child by:

  • Establishing Paternity;
  • Creates and waives certain rights and responsibilities for the mother, father and child;
  • Allows the Father’s name to be on the child’s birth record; and
  • Provides a basis for establishing child support.

Signing this document DOES NOT establish custody or parenting time, but it is the first step toward making that request. Note this is a Voluntary document. If there is any doubt as to who the biological father is, this document should not be signed until paternity can be confirmed through a DNA test. These can be done at local clinics discreetly and inexpensively. It is a good idea to consult a lawyer before signing the Recognition of Parentage, as it is an important legal document that can only be revoked 60 days after signing.

Once paternity is confirmed and/or a Recognition of Parentage is signed, fathers should bring a Custody and Parenting Time action in the Court to formally establish legal custody, physical custody, parenting time and child support. Even if some of these topics are not relevant to the current situation, the final Order will insure that your legal rights as a parent are protected in the event your situation changes.

Advice from a family law attorney is the best way to know that your rights will be protected and your relationship with your child will be established and maintained.


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