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Minneapolis Custody & Visitation Law Blog

Sorting out the issues regarding paternity and fathers' rights

Minneapolis fathers may be interested in learning about the legal definition of paternity and how it is established. Paternity can have a large impact on both a father's rights and the rights of the child with regard to support, education and other important life decisions.

Under the laws of Minnesota, "paternity" is the name given to the concept of legal fatherhood. While a child has a biological father if he or she was born to an unmarried couple, the child has no legal father. Even a birth certificate is not enough to establish paternity in those cases. Paternity can be established in one of two ways: either through filling out and filing a Recognition of Parentage form or by an order from the court. The ROP form simply acknowledges the child's biological parents. If the father is unwilling to sign the form, a paternity action must be brought in court seeking an order from a judge. This process may require genetic testing to discover if the man is the child's biological father.

When grandparents may have visitation rights

In Minnesota, when a child's parents may not be able to provide the care that they need, they may be placed into foster care or be adopted by another family. However, the child's grandparents may still wish to be in that child's life. In some cases, the grandparents may be able to seek visitation in order to remain bonded with their grandchild.

There a number of conditions that must be met before grandparents may be awarded visitation. The marital status of the parents is one of these considerations, as it may not be appropriate for the grandparents to be awarded visitation if the couple is not married. Marital status may not be considered, however, if the child lived with the grandparents for a certain amount of time. Additionally, if a parent is deceased, the grandparents may be awarded visitation. Regardless of whether the statutory conditions are met, the grandparents must still prove that visitation is in the best interest of the child. In Minnesota, if the child is adopted by someone outside the family, the grandparents' visitation rights are terminated.

Minnesota law regarding custody judgments

Courts in Minnesota are to follow a set of rules found in section 518.17 of the Minnesota Statutes when making child custody decisions. The statute defines a variety of factors to be examined thoroughly in order to pass rulings that benefit children and protect them from abuse.

The statute first defines the best interests of a child, going into detail regarding 13 specific factors that could promote or diminish a child's general well-being and stability. For instance, the wishes of parents and of children deemed old enough to show preference are evaluated along with factors such as a child's social adjustment and his or her cultural background. It also orders courts not to consider a prospective custodian's conduct outside of what could affect that person's relationship with the child.

Child support reimbursement sought by grandparent

Although it is not uncommon for parents to be held responsible for their minor children's financial issues, Minnesota residents may be surprised at the situation facing a Florida woman. The woman's son was a minor when his daughter was born, and a court order was issued in 2013 in Highlands County requiring her to pay $254 per month in child support for her granddaughter. The order also imposed costs for back support dating to the girl's birth in December 2012. The woman has paid more than $3,000 and does not have access to the child.

The woman's son reached the age of legal responsibility for the child in January, but she has continued to deal with a monthly deduction. Her son is endeavoring to find a job so that he can support his daughter and says that he does not know where the child is currently located. Meanwhile, his mother is currently receiving assistance with the case from a community advocate.

Fathers who don't pay child support busted by social media

Flashy Facebook pictures posted by some fathers in Minnesota and around the country are getting them in trouble for nonpayment of child support. According to one single mother in Wisconsin, her 5-year-old daughter's father regularly posts photos of himself holding stacks of cash in his custom car. Meanwhile, the mother has received only one of the monthly $100 payments he is supposed to make for the care of their child.

The assistant district attorney for the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office says that social media has become a useful tool for determining which fathers have the resources to pay child support and which ones don't. Because failure to pay child support is only a crime when the father has the means to pay but fails to do so, examining some social media posts can be vital for determining who is breaking the law.

Child support skyrockets for wealthy women

The affluent women of Minnesota and around the country are likely to be court-ordered to pay large child support payments to their exes. If a woman's career means that she earns most of the household income and her relationship ends, a judge may decide the issue of child custody and support. Like actress Halle Berry, the woman may be required to be the major supporter of the couple's children.

Berry's child support was agreed upon and set at $16,000 in monthly payments, which she pays to the father of her daughter. The two have joint custody of the 6-year-old, but Berry also pays $30,000 each year for the child's private education and shares health care costs with her ex. This might sound excessive, but at roughly $200,000 per year, it may only be a small percentage of her annual income.

Basketball player involved in paternity dispute

Minnesota sports fans have probably read headlines before about high-earning athletes submitting to paternity tests to try to determine whether they fathered a child out of wedlock. Indiana Pacers player Paul George was determined to be the father of a child through a prenatal paternity test, but the player is contesting the results, saying that he doubts the accuracy of the test. The basketball player recently took another paternity test after the birth of the child on May 1.

George says that if he is confirmed to be the baby's father, he would like to have sole physical child custody. The player says that the mother is not fit to care for the child, considering that she has not been making efforts to find gainful employment and that she has been relying on outside help in caring for the baby. The woman's attorney says that the suggestion that the mother of a two-month-old infant should be trying to find work is insulting to women.

The modern shift in parenting roles

Divorcing fathers in Minnesota may be nervous about what is in store for them in terms of a child custody judgment. Although research has begun to show that men's involvement in their children's lives can help their children's development, family law courts are still traditionally seen as being more favorable to mothers.

Some fathers are choosing to hire family law firms that work only for men, believing that these firms may have more of an investment in fighting for their paternal rights. Of course, any lawyer can be capable of representing a man's interests in a divorce, provided that the lawyer understands that no single custody arrangement will be the best fit for every set of parents. Single fathers may need to be prepared to fight a little harder for their right to custody, since they will first need to bring an action in court that establishes that they do have fathers' rights. Once paternity is established, many judges will treat the single father the same way as they would treat a divorcing father.

What role will medical marijuana laws play in custody cases?

Illegal drug use is a factor that can be brought into child custody disputes. Marijuana is considered a controlled substance for everyone on the federal level and for most people on the state level in Minnesota. Lawmakers recently enacted legislation that would make medical marijuana in the oil and pill forms legal for some residents in the state.

In the realm of family law issues, this new legislation raises the question of how medical marijuana use might be considered in child custody disputes.

Cash reserves to cover unpaid support aren't always available

Child support is a vital resource for many parents in Minneapolis and across the entire state of Minnesota. Unfortunately, not all child support obligations are met on a consistent basis, whether that is intentional or not. Although child support orders are determined on the basis of the child’s interests, parents rely on this money.

Failure to receive complete and timely payments doesn’t mean that the custodial parent is going to let the child’s needs fall to the wayside. Parents will figure out how to make ends meet the best way that they can. For many, dipping into cash reserves set aside for emergencies will cause harm in the long-run or may not even be an available option in the present.

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