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When do unmarried fathers have rights to their children?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2022 | Child Custody, Family Law

If your child was recently born (or will be soon) and you are not married to your child’s mother, you may have several questions. You want to be involved in your child’s life, including having the right to visitation or even joint custody. But what do you have to do in order to claim those rights – and the responsibilities that come with them?

Establishing paternity

When a couple conceive a child outside of marriage, there is no legal presumption of paternity. This means that the first step will be for you to establish that you are the father of the child.

You can do this by signing and notarizing a document declaring that you are the father, and filing it with the Department of Health. You have ten months from when the child is born to acknowledge your status as father under this procedure. After that time, you will have to start a separate legal action to gain recognition as the father.

Your rights to visitation and custody

Once the court officially recognizes your child’s parentage, you will have the same rights as a married father. This does not necessarily mean that you will automatically gain custody of your child for half of the time. Instead, it means that the court will take you into consideration when determining a custody arrangement and visitation schedule.

Minnesota courts always prioritize the best interest of the child over all else when determining who should have custody of them. Under normal circumstances, courts typically agree that it is in the best interest of the child to have a solid, healthy relationship with both parents. Thus, it’s likely that the court will grant you the right to regular visitation, and possibly even joint custody of your child. You may also need to pay child support.

If you are ready to enjoy the privileges – and take on the responsibilities – associated with being a present and dedicated father in your child’s life, then you’re in luck. The established legal procedure can help you to make that dream a reality.

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