Determining the Legal Father

While every child has a biological father, children born outside of a marriage may not have a legal father. The Family Law Division of the Anoka County Attorney's Office helps to establish legal fathers for children.

Determining the legal father of a child can be done in three ways:

  • The parents can sign and file a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) document;
  • The courts can declare the biological father to be the legal father through a paternity action; or
  • If the parties marry after the child is born, both parents can sign an affidavit and file it with the Office of the State Registrar.

Recognition of Parentage (ROP)

This is a legal document that is signed by both parents after a child is born. Both parents must voluntarily sign the ROP. The ROP is typically signed at the hospital; however, it can be signed at any time and any place in front of a notary public. The ROP must be properly completed, signed and filed with the Minnesota Department of Health. Once the properly completed document is signed and filed, it becomes a legal document. It legally establishes the father of your child. It creates rights and responsibilities for the mother and father and it also waives other rights.

The ROP form is available in several languages on the Minnesota Department of Human Services website. Access DHS forms and then select "Establish Parentage."

Paternity Action

If the parties do not sign and file a Recognition of Parentage (ROP), the court can determine who is the legal father of the child. A parent or the county must start a court action by serving legal documents, including a summons, complaint, motion and affidavit(s). These legal documents are called a paternity action. Through a paternity action, the parents or the county can request genetic testing. A paternity action addresses many issues related to determining who is the legal father. The court must also decide issues such as the legal name of the child, legal custody, physical custody, parenting time (visitation), child support, cost of genetic testing, and past support.

Read more about Paternity Action (PDF).


If the parents marry after the birth of their child, they may be able to declare the legal father through an affidavit (statement made under oath) process. The Anoka County Attorney's Office does not participate in this process. Parents are encouraged to consult with a private attorney if they have this situation and would like to pursue this method.