When a child is born to unmarried parents in North Dakota, there are two primary ways in which paternity for that child can legally be established and benefits to doing so for both the child and the parents.
Ways to Legally Establish Paternity
(Voluntary) Acknowledgement of Paternity (AoP):
This is a form can be completed in the hospital upon the birth of a child or within 3 days of the birth of the child. Both the mother and the father sign the document. The document is then filed with the North Dakota Department of Vital Records and the child’s birth certificate is issued containing both parents’ names, accordingly. This process is generally used when both parents are certain as to the paternity of the child.
The parties may also sign an AoP establishing paternity of a child after that time, but then the signature must be done in front of witnesses. Signing this form has the same effect as a court order establishing paternity. It is a legally binding document. The VPA form advises a signatory of this fact directly on the form.
If a party signed an AoP and now has doubts as to the paternity of the child in question, the AoP may be rescinded or challenged, but only within certain, very limited timeframes and for specified reasons set forth in the statute.
Additionally, if the mother is married to someone other than the alleged father at the time of the child’s birth or if the mother has not been divorced more than 300 days before the birth, there is a marital presumption of paternity. This means that the husband or recently ex-husband is presumed under the law to be the child’s father, even if he is not, in fact, the biological father. The marital presumption of paternity can be overcome by having the mother, the alleged father, and the husband/ex-husband (presumed father) all sign the AoP. There is also a legal process available for overcoming a presumption of paternity.
Legal Action for Paternity
If the court has sufficient evidence or proof of the paternity of a child, including but not limited to genetic testing results from an accredited laboratory, it can enter an order legally establishing a man as a child’s father. However, if an individual admits paternity to the Court, or if there is unrebutted assertions that the individual is a child’s father, the Court may also adjudicate that person as the father. A court can determine which party is to pay for the cost of the genetic testing.
Benefits to Legally Establishing Paternity
There are benefits to legally establishing the paternal relationship for parents and the child. Children whose parentage has been adjudicated or otherwise established have the same rights under the law as children born to married parents. These benefits to the child of establishing paternity include, but are not limited to:
• Rights to financial support (child support) and health insurance coverage under the father’s policy
• Right to inherit
• Right to survivor and/or disability benefits
Benefits to the parents of legally establishing the paternal relationship can include:
• Rights to receive child support and health insurance coverage on behalf of the child
• Right to request that a Court order establishment of parental rights and responsibilities, award one parent or the other residential responsibility, and establish a parenting time schedule for a parent with the child.
If you are interested in establishing paternity, child support, legal rights and responsibilities, and/or parenting time for a minor child, contact Family Law attorney Lesley Foss at the Fremstad Law at (701) 478-7620 or contact her by e-mail at Lesley@fremstadlaw.com.
The information on this site is intended to be general in nature and is not intended to be specific legal advice. A party should contact an attorney for specific legal advice.
© 2021 Fremstad Law