When I think of Prince’s legacy, his immeasurable contributions to the arts and culture, I can’t say that promoting understanding of domestic relations law has a place that legacy.  But the late Prince Rogers Nelson recently surprised me his abilities.  The impact of this man’s extraordinarily talent extends even to domestic relations law, as I was to found out.


There’s a background to this story. Prince’s parents, Mattie Shaw and John Nelson, married in 1957.  A year later, along came Prince.  In 1968 Prince’s were divorced.  Court records reflect that Prince and a sister Tyka, were the children of that marriage. 

John Nelson would have other children, but, that’s not the point of this discussion; it’s actually whether Price might have had another father!


After the sad passing of Prince in the spring of 2016, a probate proceeding was needed to determine Prince’s heirs, and how to properly distribute his enormous estate.  As is well-known, Prince left no will to identify heirs and to leave instruction as to the distribution of his estate. 

So one of this first questions the probate court got to answer was, who are Prince’s heirs? The law defines an heir is someone who descended from the same family tree as the decedent, and so, as sharing a parent makes you part of the same tree, it is important to know who your parents are.

In Prince’s case, there’s ample proof that John Nelson and Mattie Shawn were his parents. We know that. But, the law also recognizes the possibility of a child sharing DNA with someone other than the mother’s husband.  And such was the claim of several purported heirs of Prince’s estate, who asked the probate court to find that Prince’s biological father was not John Nelson.  In fact, two other potential fathers were represented to be the actual biological father of Prince, according to records filed in Prince’s estate proceeding.

In order to identify Prince’s heirs, the court had to determine who Prince’s father was. Under Minnesota Law, Chapter 257 (the paternity chapter), it is provided that “a man is presumed to be the biological father of a child “if he and the chid’s biological mother are married to each other and the child is born during the marriage”.  Because John Nelson was married to Mattie Shaw when Prince was born, this would give the presumption of paternity to John Nelson. 

But wait! This doesn’t prohibit another father from being identified as the father, and overcoming that presumption.  There is a limit, though, on when that other person can come along try to wrestle paternity from the presumptive father.

The law says that this challenge must be laid down no more than “two years after the person bringing the action has reason to believe that the presumed father is not the father of the child, but in no event later than three years after the child’s birth.” Minn. Stat. § 257.57, subd. 1(2).

Prince was born in 1958, and so the chance to bring the challenge had long since sailed.  And so, it was John Nelson, being the presumptive father under Chapter 257, who got to declare his descendants as the heirs of Prince’s estate.

Prince’s case is a great example of how Minnesota paternity law works, and, how it can impacts a father’s rights, as well as the rights of a father’s descendants. If you have questions about paternity rights any how they can be established or challenged, please contact the attorneys at Beyer & Simonson.

Meet Tim Simonson

Tim has been practicing for more than twenty (20) years now, He's handled divorce, child support, child custody, third party and grandparent rights, domestic abuse, parenting time, and many other areas of family law. He always enjoys the chance to meet people and see whether he can help find solutions to their legal problems.

Contact Beyer & Simonson

If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.

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