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Paternity, legal and biological fatherhood, and child support

When a child is born in Minnesota, not every couple will be 100 percent certain as to the identity of the biological father. Paternity can be a complex issue rife with emotional, personal and financial ramifications. It is important for the parents to understand the various aspects of paternity such as the difference between a biological and legal father and who is financially responsible for the child. This can have a long-lasting impact not just on the parents, but on the child as well.

Obviously, when a child is born there will be a biological father. However, that does not mean that the child will automatically have a legal father. The legal father is recognized as the child's father under the law. It does not necessarily have to be the biological father to be a legal father. When a married mother has a child, the spouse will be deemed as the legal parent. It might not be necessary to determine biological fatherhood. If the mother is unmarried at the time of the child's birth, the parentage will not be automatic. A child with a legal father can receive benefits through the father. This includes veteran's benefits, Social Security, health insurance, inheritance and more.

A common dispute between parents who are not fully certain of a child's paternity is child support and financial responsibility. The child must be cared for and part of that is financial support. Parents who are living together with a child will not need to worry about child support. Parents who are not living together will likely have to come to a support agreement. With child support, there will be basic support, medical and dental care, child care, support that is in arrears as far back as two years or the date of the child's birth, costs for pregnancy and birth, costs for genetic testing, and repayment of public assistance that might have been paid for the child before paternity was known. This is where Recognition of Parentage becomes important. This does not order the parent to pay child support. There must be a child support order for that, but the ROP document is the foundation for child support.

Fathers' rights, paternity, child support and other issues will come to the forefront when a child is born and there is a dispute or lack of knowledge as to the identity of the biological father. This is an imperative part of the child's care and forms the basis for the future. With paternity disagreements, both parents must protect themselves and the child with assistance from a qualified legal professional.

Source: edocs.dhs.state.mn.us, "Being a Legal Father: Parentage Information -- page 2," accessed on July 18, 2017

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