If you’ve ever wondered how a father can ‘prove’ he is dad, you wouldn’t be wrong in assuming that a genetic test, or a ‘paternity test’ is the way to do it.
However, that is not the only way to prove paternity, and in some cases, it’s not enough! A court will sometimes not grant a father paternity rights, even though the father has proven genetically, that he is dad. The court has the ability to consider more than just biological evidence when deciding who gets to be dad.
The Minnesota Parentage Act governs determinations of paternity by providing a variety of circumstances in which a man is legally ‘presumed’ to be the father of a child. See Minn. Stat. §257.51. Note the word presumed, which does not mean proven. So a father can get a ‘paternity test’ and, and prove scientifically that there is a 99.999% chance that he is the child’s father, and, all that gets him is a presumption that he is dad.
According to the Minnesota Parentage Act, in order to get the legal rights that come with being dad (rights to child custody, parenting time, rights of succession, property rights), the father must ask the court to grant an order declaring that he is the child’s father.
Even though he may have test results in hand saying the he is dad, and he may be ready and willing to go to court and get an order saying that he is dad, a father still runs the risk of having another individual stepping in and declaring himself to be the father, and therefore ‘competing’ for the right to be declared the father by the court. Here’s how that can happen.
Because the Parentage Act says that there are a variety of circumstances that someone can be presumed father, it is possible that someone can challenge the father’s claim to paternity, even though father has scientific evidence that he is dad. Here are some ways that a person can compete for paternity even without a paternity test:
a) the person is married to, recently divorced from, or tried to marry the child’s mother;
b) the person’s name on the child’s birth certificate;
c) the person has a duty by court order or promise, to support the child;
d) that person has openly held out the child as his biological child;
e) the person has signed an acknowledgment of paternity with the mother;
f) the person has signed a recognition of parentage with the child’s mother;
So in a battle of competing claims for paternity, the court then has to pick a winner by weighing factors, of ‘policy and logic’. See Minn. Stat. §257.55 subd. 2. Not sure what this means? Join the club!
Courts have taken this language, and come up with a play book for what to do when dealing with competing claims for paternity. Here it is:
1) look at the facts of each case;
2) take into account the child’s blood relationships;
3) take into account the child’s existing relationships; and
4) take into account the child’s best interests.
This can mean that judge will look at such things as a child’s existing relationship with the father, and his extended family, or, the judge can consider what might happen if the father were to lose his paternity claim and possibly be cut off from ever having a relationship with the child. The judge will also look at the father’s ability and willingness to support, nurture, and promote an ongoing relationship with the child’s mother. In total there are twelve (12) factors that a court can consider when looking a child’s ‘best interests’, under Minn. Stat. §518.17 subd. 1., but none require that a judge consider whether a person is biologically-related to the child.
As the Court of Appeals has stated: “determination of paternity is no longer solely an issue of biological fact.” See In Re Welfare of CMG, 516 N.W.2d 555, (Minn. Ct. App. 1994).
If you have questions about a possible paternity issue that you or someone you care about is facing, it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice.
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.