A child born to unmarried parents creates a bit of a child custody conundrum under Minnesota law. For one, without a legal document recognizing paternity or parentage of a child, there is no legally-recognized parent and child relationship between the child and the child’s father. To a lesser extent, the child’s mother’s rights are also limited, although Minnesota law recognizes that until a court enters an order granting child custody rights, the mother has sole legal and sole physical custody of a child.
Without a legally-recognized parent-child relationship, it also leaves doubt as to which parties should have a say in whether a child can be adopted.
In an effort to recognize the rights of unmarried parents, Minnesota law has created a ‘Recognition of Parentage’; a legal document that is filed with the Minnesota Department of Health, to legally recognize a child’s parents (in cases of unmarried parents) and to grant certain rights to the child’s parents, including the right to pursue child custody and parenting time, or to consent to a child’s adoption.
Parents who have signed a Recognition of Parentage, are entitled to notice of any adoption proceeding for a child for whom they have acknowledged parental rights to, by signing and filing the Recognition of Parentage.
This ‘legal vacuum’ that’s caused when a child is born to unmarried parents, places greater burden on the child’s father to sign a Recognition of Parentage; as the mother already has some limited legal rights to custody of the child. Without a Recognition of Parentage, the father is without rights to pursue child custody or parenting time rights, and, runs the risk that the child may be adopted without the father’s consent.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently recognized this point in its decision In Re Petition of MJR and CLR to Adopt DJR, _ N.W.2d , , (Minn. Ct. App. 2020), where it refused to allow an adoption of a child for whom the father had signed the Recognition of Parentage, but had not consented to the child’s adoption.
The Court acknowledged that the Recognition of Parentage “has the force and effect of a judgment or order determining the existence of the parent and child relationship.” Meaning, that unless the Recognition of Parentage has been vacated, the parent named on the Recognition of Parentage is entitled to notice of an adoption proceeding involving his child, and, the parent’s consent was required before the adoption to take place.
Signing the Recognition of Parentage gave the father the right to be notified of his child’s adoption, and, allowed the father to establish child custody rights. Knowing child custody rights and adoption rights, and how they can be affected by the Minnesota Recognition of Parentage form, makes it worthwhile to speak to an adoption attorney or a child custody attorney.
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