New Dad - Not a Husband
February 19, 2016 at 7:03 AM
Today, it is not uncommon for children to be born to parents who, while in committed relationships, are not legally married. Though society has become more open about children being born “out of wedlock,” our laws do not reflect the new family dynamic. Fathers have to go through the court system to be granted legal rights of their own child if the child was born outside marriage.
In 1940, records show that only 89,500 children were born to unmarried parents in the United States. This increased over six times from 1940 to 1990, where the number of children born to unmarried parents increased to 1.17 million. Currently, approximately 40% of all newborns each year are born to parents who are not legally married. These numbers continue to rise.
The law, however, has not changed significantly to reflect this trend. Even though every child has a “biological” father, not every child has a “legal” father under the laws in Minnesota. Unmarried fathers can gain the status of “legal father” by having both parents fill out a form called a “Recognition of Parentage,” or “ROP” and have it filed with the Department of Human Services. The Recognition of Parentage has the effect of creating a presumption of paternity, meaning the status as the “legal father.” By signing this document, fathers have assumed the responsibility of financial support for their child but gain no rights to that child. The mother of the child retains sole legal and sole physical custody. Father gains no right to parenting time, but rather the right to pay child support alone.
A father can only gain legal rights to his child through a court order. If the mother and father can agree on these issues, the agreement must be approved by the Court in order for it to be legally binding. Without an agreement, a court action can be costly and cause a significant disruption in parenting for fathers. Parents can come to agreements at the time of the birth of their child, which can be legally adopted by the Court at that time.
Call our office to discuss your rights and how to protect them in regard to your child. Do it before an issue arises. Children need both parents to be involved in their lives in order to be healthy and productive adults.
6 Minn. Prac., Methods Of Practice § 34.7 (3d ed.)