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The Ultimate Guide to Fathers’ Rights in Minnesota

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Going through divorce or separation can be terrifying for fathers who assume they won’t have the chance to continue raising their children. After all, some mothers use the issue of child custody to try to hurt the child’s father, as they might threaten to minimize or completely cut off contact between the father and child after the divorce or breakup.

Even if your child’s mother has not directly threatened your rights as a father, you might be worried that the Minnesota family law court is biased against fathers and will automatically give the mother sole custody as a result. Though it’s certainly understandable to have these concerns, it should help to know that modern courts now recognize the importance of having both parents involved in raising children. This means they try to treat mothers and fathers equally when deciding custody cases, so don’t lose hope as your legal case begins. As long as you have a knowledgeable Minnesota lawyer guiding you through the legal process, you have a strong chance of getting a fair outcome that allows you to remain involved in your child’s life.

How Can You Establish Paternity?

Before you begin your Minnesota custody case, you should learn how this state handles the question of paternity. This depends on whether you married the mother of your children. If you did, you’re legally considered the father and will typically not need to take any steps to prove paternity before proceeding with your custody case after divorce.

However, if you and the child’s mother are not married, you must prove paternity before you can request joint or sole child custody. This is because in Minnesota, when an unmarried mother has a child, she is automatically given physical and legal custody. By contrast, unmarried fathers have to use the legal system to prove paternity before they can fight for custody of the child. There are a couple of ways to do this.

If you and the mother of your child can come to an agreement that you’re the father, your next step is to legally establish paternity by signing a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) form. After you sign and file this form, you’ll be considered the legal father and can begin fighting for custody or visitation with your child.

If the mother of your child was married to someone else when the baby was born, it’s essential to know that the law considers him the father until you can prove otherwise. Even if you get a paternity test that shows you’re the biological father, you won’t be the legal father until the other man agrees to relinquish this title. More specifically, he must sign a Spouse’s Non-parentage Statement no more than one year after the child’s birth. Once he signs that, you can sign the Recognition of Parentage form to become the legal father of your child and request custody or visitation.

If the child’s mother refuses to sign a Recognition of Parentage form or claims you’re not the biological father, you’ll need to go to court to establish paternity. This means you must petition the court to request a DNA test to prove that the child is biologically yours. If the test proves this, the court will issue an order of filiation, confirming that you’re the biological and legal father and therefore have the right to request joint or sole custody.

As you can see, proving paternity can be a complicated process that requires you to understand your rights, accurately fill out legal paperwork, and petition the court when necessary. Trying to do this all on your own can become overwhelming, especially when you’re worried about potentially losing access to your children. This is why you should hire a Minnesota paternity lawyer to walk you through proving paternity before you start your custody case.

What Are the Possible Child Custody Arrangements in Minnesota?

Once you’re considered the legal father according to the Minnesota legal system, you have the right to request custody of your child. Before starting your custody case, you must decide if you want to pursue joint or sole legal and physical custody. Make sure you understand what each arrangement means and how it will affect your household.

When you have physical custody of your child, you’re responsible for providing the care they need on a daily basis. For example, you’re expected to give them a safe home, buy them clothes, feed them, ensure they bathe and brush their teeth, and discipline them when necessary.

If you want your child to live with you full-time, you can pursue sole physical custody. If you want to share physical custody with their other parent so they live with you part-time, you’ll pursue joint physical custody. The latter is usually the easiest custody arrangement to get as long as you both agree to it, since judges want both parents to help raise their children when possible. However, if you or your child’s other parent feel joint custody is unsafe for the child, you could be facing a lengthy court battle and will need a trusted Minnesota lawyer by your side.

The other type of child custody that parents often fight for is legal custody. This refers to your right to make crucial decisions that affect your child’s life. When you have legal custody, you can decide where your child goes to school, which church they can attend, which sports they can play, and which medical procedures they should get.

If you and the child’s other parent both want to help make these decisions, you can pursue joint legal custody. If you don’t feel you can trust the other parent to make sound decisions while raising your child, you can seek sole legal custody. Either way, you’ll need legal support from a skilled Minnesota fathers’ rights lawyer who can give you a chance to get the legal and physical custody arrangements that are right for your family.

What Does the Judge Consider When Making Child Custody Decisions?

It’s common for parents to have strong opinions regarding what they believe are ideal custody arrangements for their child, and they often both want primary custody. However, the reality is that the judge is supposed to strongly consider the best interests of the child when making custody decisions.

This means simply telling the judge that you would like sole custody because you want to be around your child more isn’t enough. Instead, you must show why living with you is in your child’s best interests. Of course, this can be difficult if the other parent attempts to do the same, likely putting down your parenting skills in the process. Fortunately, an experienced lawyer can tell you what factors you must prove to a family court judge so they can see that your child is safe in your care.

Minnesota judges will consider several factors when deciding the custody arrangement that’s in your child’s best interests, including:

  • Each parent’s history of providing care for the child
  • Which parent can best meet the emotional, religious, cultural, and physical needs of the child
  • Whether the child has special medical or educational needs that require them to live near certain facilities to get necessary services
  • Whether the child would benefit from having both parents in their life
  • How moving to a different house, school, and community would affect the child’s well-being
  • Whether a parent has a history of domestic abuse that could put the child’s safety and well-being at risk
  • Whether one parent struggles with mental health, physical, or substance abuse issues that could present safety concerns for the child
  • How altering the child’s current living situation would affect their relationships with their siblings, parents, and other loved ones
  • Whether each parent is committed to helping the child remain close to their other parent, assuming there is no history of domestic abuse
  • The willingness of both parents to work together to co-parent peacefully, without exposing the child to parental conflict
  • The willingness of each parent to continually meet the child’s needs over the years, ensuring consistency and stability in their life as they grow
  • The child’s reasonable custody preferences, assuming the judge views them as old enough and mature enough to take their opinion into consideration

As you proceed with your case, you and your lawyer will look for ways to show that you meet all these qualifications and can provide a safe, stable environment for your child. Family court judges are expected to treat mothers and fathers equally as long as they show they can provide a home that’s in the best interests of the child.

If you’re unsure where to start, an experienced Minnesota fathers’ rights lawyer can assist with this so you know what evidence you’ll need to get joint custody of your child. If you’re concerned about the safety of your child under the care of their mother and want to pursue sole custody, your lawyer will help you strategize during your case. After all, you’ll likely need to show that not only can you provide a safe home for your child, but that their mother cannot. A skilled Minnesota child custody attorney can help you collect evidence to prove this to the court.

What Happens If You Don’t Get Custody of Your Child?

Unfortunately, court cases don’t always end up with the outcome you want, even when the evidence is in your favor. Whether you think the judge in your case was biased against fathers and believed the mother’s untrue claims, or you didn’t have enough evidence to get your desired custody arrangement, don’t lose hope. You have some options to help you stay in your child’s life.

If the child’s mother was given sole custody, or if your joint custody plan involves the child primarily living with their mother, you’ll be awarded visitation. This is also called parenting time, which refers to the time you spend with your child. An example of a standard visitation schedule involves the father taking care of the child every other weekend and during school breaks, such as for a few weeks during the summer.

If you and your child’s mother can agree on a parenting schedule without involving the court, this is recommended. However, some mothers try to minimize the amount of visitation between the father and child, so they make it difficult to create a visitation schedule that’s fair for everyone. If this is the case for you, let your lawyer know so the court can create a visitation schedule that the mother must adhere to. Minnesota judges strive to give the non-custodial parent at least 25% of the parenting time, as long as this arrangement is safe for the child.

Know that if you’re not satisfied with being awarded visitation and want to find ways to get joint or sole custody, you can fight the court’s decision by requesting a modification to the child custody arrangements. However, you must show there has been a major change in circumstances since the custody order was given and that it’s in the child’s best interests to modify it. For example, if you can prove the child’s mother has become addicted to drugs or has otherwise put the child in danger since the last child custody hearing, you can petition the court to modify the child custody orders.

Be prepared to show how it’s in your child’s best interests to modify custody, as judges are unlikely to make major changes unless the child is in danger at their current home or if the custodial parent agrees to modify custody. You’ll need legal guidance from a skilled Minnesota fathers’ rights attorney to request changes to the custody order, so be sure to hire a local law firm before you prepare to go to court.

Will You Be Ordered To Pay Child Support?

Minnesota law states that every child has the right to get financial support from both parents while growing up. This means that both parents should be expected to pay for the child’s food, housing, clothing, healthcare, educational needs, and any other expenses involved in raising a child. If you share custody and both earn about the same amount of money, the court might decide that child support is unnecessary because you each already pay a fair share of the child’s expenses. However, this is relatively rare, as one parent often earns more than the other and sees the child less. As a result, many Minnesota family law cases involve child support orders.

When the child lives with one parent because they have sole physical custody, they already pay for the food, housing, and other needs of the child. It’s unfair for them to pay for these expenses alone, so the child’s other parent will likely be ordered to pay child support. This is especially the case if the other parent earns more money than the custodial parent.

If you expect to pay child support, your next concern might be how much you’ll have to pay. This depends on a variety of factors, with income, expenses, and parenting time being some of the most significant details. To start, the court will consider your gross monthly income from all sources, as well as how many children you already financially support.

Next, the court will consider the expenses associated with the child. Both parents are expected to share the costs of not only basic needs like food and shelter, but also medical, dental, and childcare costs. Finally, the court will review the amount of parenting time each parent has. Generally, the more time you spend with your child, the less you’ll pay in child support, since it’s assumed you’re paying for food, clothing, and other expenses when your child is with you.

However, it’s important to know that no two legal cases are the same, so you may be ordered to pay more or less child support than expected due to your specific circumstances. This is why you need a Minnesota fathers’ rights lawyer on your side during your case. Whether you need to modify the child support amount you were ordered to pay or need legal help collecting court-ordered child support from the mother, a skilled attorney can help.

At Legal Dad, we know what you’re going through. Our founding attorney was once a newly single father who faced the same concerns as you while navigating a legal process that is not known for protecting the rights of fathers. That’s why our legal team works tirelessly to ensure you understand your rights and won’t give up on the chance to remain involved in your child’s life. If you’re ready to get legal guidance on your child custody or child support case, call us at 612-712-3405 for a free consultation.

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