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Can unmarried fathers establish fatherhood in Minnesota?

Like every other state in the country, Minnesota has seen an increase over the last three decades in the number of children born to unmarried parents. With fathers not easily identified by virtue of their marriage to these children's mothers, states have been focusing more on establishing paternity, and thus financial accountability, for these men. Many of these unmarried fathers also want to establish fatherhood so they can be close to their children.

Have unmarried fathers always had the same rights as unmarried mothers? No. The rights of unmarried fathers were historically ignored or granted less value than the rights of married parents of either sex. In the past few decades, however, social attitudes have been slowly changing, with increasing numbers of unmarried fathers asserting their rights and establishing paternity.

How have the courts decided this issue? In several landmark legal cases, unmarried fathers have fought the termination of their rights when the mothers of their children were allowed to give the children up for adoption. In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Supreme Court asserted that unmarried fathers have the full protection of the Constitution, provided they are in significant relationships with their children.

Why is establishing paternity important? The courts recognize that a paternity test is the surest proof of a biological link between fathers and children.

What do the states require? All states allow unmarried fathers to legally register their paternity by submitting certain information. The information includes name, Social Security number, address and birthdate, as well as those of the biological mother. The name and address of any individual who has been ordered by the court to be the child's father must also be mentioned. The child's date of birth and name also should be provided when a father seeks to establish paternity.

Source: ChildWelfare.gov, "The Rights of Unmarried Fathers," Accessed on Nov.13, 2014

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