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Legal fathers

Every child has a biological father, but not every child has a legal father. A legal father is the man the law recognizes as the father of a child.

  • When a married woman has a child, Minnesota law automatically recognizes the woman's spouse as the child's legal parent. If the mother is married to someone other than the child's biological father, the biological father can be named as the legal father through a voluntary process or court order.
  • If a mother is not married when her child is born, the child does not have a legal father. Establishing parentage gives a child born outside of marriage a legal father and the same legal rights as a child born to married parents.

Child support and parenting time

  • A legal father may or may not be ordered to pay child support.
  • A legal father may or may not have custody or parenting time. A mother who was not married when the child was conceived or born has sole legal and physical custody of the child, unless a court orders otherwise. As a general rule, the child support office does not get involved in custody or parenting time issues.

Other reasons children need legal parents

Children can get benefits through their legal parents, such as:

  • Social Security benefits
  • Veteran's benefits
  • Tribal registration benefits
  • Health care coverage
  • Worker's compensation benefits
  • Inheritance rights

Children also gain by knowing both parents' biological, cultural and medical histories.

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