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Marriage can affect fathers' rights

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen made local headlines earlier this summer when he signed a major contract that will keep him with the team for the next five years. This week, he made headlines again by marrying his longtime girlfriend, who is also the mother of his child.

It is not uncommon these days for couples to live together and even have children together prior to marriage, and some of these couples may wonder what, if anything, would change if they decided to get married. 

On some levels, of course, the answers to that question are as varied as the people who ask it. From an emotional perspective, some long-term couples experience marriage as a marked transition into a new stage of the relationship, while others view it as something of a formality that has little impact on their day-to-day attitudes and interactions.

From a legal point of view, however, the consequences of marriage tend to be more clearly defined. Parenthood is one area in which marriage can make a big difference, especially for fathers. When a child is born to a married woman, her husband is generally presumed to be the father for legal purposes. This means he automatically receives paternal rights and responsibilities, such as providing for the child’s care and having a say in major decisions about his or her upbringing.

On the other hand, a child who is born to unmarried parents does not automatically have a father for legal purposes. In order to secure an unmarried father’s rights and responsibilities with regard to his child, the parents must take steps to establish paternity -- even they get married after the child is born. People with questions about their parental rights and other legal issues pertaining to marriage and divorce in Minnesota are encouraged to consult with a family law attorney for advice about their specific circumstances.

Source: The Viking Age, "Everson Griffen Marries Long Time Girlfriend," Adam Carlson, July 6, 2014

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