STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota Regarding the Parties:
Human Services Faribault, et al., petitioners,
Josephine M. Peterson,
Bradford W. Seifert,
Filed September 15, 1998
Reversed and remanded
Martin County District Court
File No. F997506
Terry W. Viesselman, Martin County Attorney, 923 North State Street, Suite 130, Fairmont, MN 56031 (for appellants)
Bradford W. Seifert, c/o Sheldon Thom, 206 Lakeview Street, Fairmont, MN 56031 (pro se respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Thoreen, Judge.
Martin/Faribault County Human Services appeals the dismissal of its child support, medical support, and reimbursement of public assistance establishment action. The administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that a recognition of paternity executed by a minor pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 257.75 only establishes a presumption of paternity and was thus not a basis for bringing the establishment action. We reverse and remand.
Josephine Peterson gave birth to a son, A.W.S., on April 22, 1994. The same day, Peterson, then 16 years old, and Bradford Seifert, then 17 years old, signed a recognition of parentage, acknowledging that Seifert was A.W.S.'s biological father. Peterson and Seifert were unmarried. From May 16, 1997, to July 31, 1997, Faribault/Martin County Human Services provided Peterson with public assistance cash payments totaling $987. The county brought this administrative action under Minn. Stat. §§ 256.87 (Supp. 1997) and 256.74, subd. 5 (1996), to obtain reimbursement from Seifert for the payments made for A.W.S.'s behalf and to establish child and medical support. After a contested child support establishment hearing, the ALJ dismissed the action without prejudice on the grounds that paternity was not established by the recognition of parentage signed by Peterson and Seifert.
The construction of a statute is a legal question reviewed de novo by this court. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985); Arvig Tel. Co. v. Northwestern Bell Tel. Co., 270 N.W.2d 111, 114 (Minn. 1978) (appellate court not bound by administrative agency determinations on matters of statutory interpretation).
Minn. Stat. § 257.75, subd. 3 (Supp. 1997), expressly states that a properly executed recognition of parentage has the effect of a paternity decree and serves as a basis for a child support establishment and public assistance reimbursement action.
The recognition is:
(1) a basis for bringing an action * * * establishing a child support obligation * * *, [or] ordering a contribution by a parent under section 256.87 * * * ;
(2) determinative for all other purposes related to the existence of the parent and child relationship; and
(3) entitled to full faith and credit in other jurisdictions.
Id. The statute lists three exceptions, i.e., subdivision 2 of section 257.75 and clauses (g) and (h) in subdivision 1 of section 257.55, none of which apply in this case.
The ALJ relies on Minn. Stat. § 257.55, subd. 1 (1996), which states:
A man is presumed to be the biological father of a child if:
* * * *
(i) He and the child's biological mother executed a recognition of parentage in accordance with section 257.75 when either or both of the signatories were less than 18 years of age.
Although section 257.55, subdivision 1(g) and (h), are listed exceptions, subdivision 1(i) of the same section is not. Given this stark exclusion by the legislature, a recognition of parentage signed by minors has the effect of a paternity judgment for the purposes of an establishment action. See Martinco v. Hastings, 265 Minn. 490, 495, 122 N.W.2d 631, 637 (1963) ("[W]hen a statute speaks with clarity in limiting its application to specifically enumerated subjects, its application shall not be extended to other subjects by process of construction.").
The ALJ also found that a recognition signed by a minor only creates a presumption of paternity under Minn. Stat. § 257.75, subd. 9 (1996), which states:
A recognition of parentage executed and filed in accordance with this section by a minor parent creates a presumption of paternity for the purposes of sections 257.51 to 257.74.
(Emphasis added.) This provision expressly limits the presumptive effect of a recognition signed by a minor to sections 257.51 through 257.74, which primarily address paternity actions. Neither Peterson nor Seifert contested paternity in this case, rather the county brought this action under Minn. Stat. §§ 256.87 and 256.74, subd. 5.
Because the statute provides that the recognition of parentage signed by Seifert and Peterson when they were both under 18 serves as the basis for this action, we reverse the dismissal and remand for establishment of child support, medical support, and public assistance reimbursement.
Reversed and remanded.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.