Will You Be Told “You Are Not The Father?”
A mother has no doubt who are her children. She gave birth to them. She saw them the moment they entered the world. However, the question of “who is the father” is long steeped in both humor and conflict that reveals the history of difficulty and trouble over definitively determining the biological father of a child. This issue has historically built a diverse legal standard for the determination of the presumptive biological father, and in turn legal father of a child.
Yes, that’s correct, under Minnesota law a biological father and a legal father are not the same thing. While historically the law first set out to establish legal fatherhood by a best case determination of the biological father, additions and edits were made to the law over time that sought to promote other means and purposes for establishing a legal father, especially in light of the fact that a biological father could never be definitively determined. Where a father-figure was ready and willing to step forward in a child’s life, the law found fit to establish that as a grounds for legal determination of fatherhood. Where a couple married or attempted to marry at some time around the child’s conception or birth, the law found these instances to be sufficient grounds to establish legal fatherhood. Present law has about a dozen different standards for establishing a legal father which do not involve or relate to biology. However, the rise of genetic research relating to DNA now gives us the ability to definitively determine the biological father of a child, and should have made these other bases obsolete.
Now with mothers, whether it is because their biological maternity is and forever has been unquestioned, or for some other reason, Minnesota law guarantees that the biological mother of a child is the legal mother of a child. GUARANTEED. Only through due process can a mother’s parental rights be terminated to her legal parentage over that child. However, even though biological fathers can now be definitively determined through genetic testing, biological fathers are NOT guaranteed the right to be the legal father of their child. A biological father can and is routinely denied any legal right to parentage over their child without being provided any due process of law.
You can imagine any number of talk-show worthy or Hollywood movie storyline scenarios where a biological father may not be immediately aware of the existence of a child, and a mother may be unwilling or unable to notify such father. But whatever the circumstances, and whatever the timeline, when that biological father does go to assert his legal rights as father, he may find himself locked out of the child’s life before ever having a chance to start, and in facing that reality, he may never get his day in Court to assert his rights to his own child.
Now we know biology alone does not make a father, and many great men have taken on the mantle of fatherhood for children that were not biologically their own. However, there is something disconcerting in the dichotomy of the law that guarantees protection and due process for a mother with her child but does not guarantee the same protection and due process for a father and his child. We believe it is an issue that should continue to be probed and perhaps even challenged in the higher courts. So if you are a biological father and have found yourself foreclosed from your rights as legal father over your child without due process, call us today to discuss your options.