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What happens after paternity is established?

For unwed parents, we've previously discussed the importance of establishing paternity. For a mother, having a signed Recognition of Parentage means that she can file for child support and obtain financial assistance in raising a child. For an unwed father, taking steps to establish paternity and sign a ROP means that he is legally recognized as a child's father. A signed ROP does not, however, automatically grant a father any child custody rights.

After paternity is legally established, barring additional legal action on the part of the father, the mother still retains sole legal and physical custody of a child. A father who wishes to gain child custody must "ask the court for an order."

Paternity isn't a guarantee that child custody will be granted. Rather, the court will review a case to determine what is believes to be in a child's best interest. In most cases, however, the court attempts to provide a father and child with the opportunity to spend time together and establish a bond by granting parenting time.

When determining specifics related to parenting time, the court will consider factors like a child's age, his or her relationship with a father and a father's mental and physical health. The court may then provide a specific schedule for parenting time that parents must follow or grant what's referred to as reasonable parenting time which allows parents to work together to come up with a schedule.

Orders related to parenting time can be modified to meet the best interests of a child. In cases involving allegations of substance abuse or domestic violence, additional legal action may be taken to restrict or provide for supervised parenting time.

Source: LawHelpMN.org, "Rights and Responsibilities of Unmarried Parents," April 3, 2015

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