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Paternity

A paternity or parentage action is the legal process to establish a father’s parental rights and relationship with a child. Paternity means fatherhood. A paternity action can be started any time, even before a child is born. Mothers, possible fathers, the State of North Dakota, or even the child can bring such a proceeding.

Paternity actions can be a tricky, especially if there is more than one possible father involved. All parties need to make sure they follow specific requirements and timelines.

Establishing paternity is an essential step to develop any additional legal rights involving a child, such as determining residential responsibility, creating a parenting time schedule, and setting either parent’s child support obligation.

A good family lawyer will educate you, help you identify realistic options, and lead you through the legal thicket. Gjesdahl Law has attorneys with expertise in North Dakota father rights and can help you start a paternity action.

Common Questions About North Dakota Paternity Laws

What does acknowledged father mean?

An acknowledged father is a man who has established his paternity by signing an acknowledgement of paternity form, which is also signed by the mother, and filed with the state department of health as a formal record.

When a man is named as an acknowledged father, he establishes himself as the biological father of a child and gains parental rights.

What does adjudicated father mean?

An adjudicated father is a man who has been declared to be a father by the court. Once established as an adjudicated father, the man has father rights and duties designated to a parental guardian.

What does alleged father mean?

An alleged father is a man who claims to be, or who is alleged to be, a possible genetic father of a child. At this point, the father does not have parental rights and is in the process of establishing paternity.

What does presumed father mean?

Presumed father means a man who is recognized as a father by operation of law, unless that status is changed via a judicial proceeding.  In North Dakota, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

  • He and the child’s mother are married (or attempted to marry in compliance with the law), and the child was born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage terminated;
  • After the child was born, he married the mother and voluntarily asserted his paternity in a record filed with the state, he is named on the child’s birth certificate, and he promised to support the child as his own; or
  • For the first two years of the child’s life, the man lived with the child and openly held the child out as his own.

Additional North Dakota Paternity Questions & Answers

“Acknowledged father” means a man who has established his paternity by signing an acknowledgement of paternity form, which is also signed by the mother, and filed with the state department of health as a formal record.

“Adjudicated father” means a man who has been declared to be a father by the court.

“Alleged father” means a mean who claims to be, or who is alleged to be, a possible genetic father of a child.

“Presumed father” means a man who is recognized as a father by operation of law, unless that status is changed via a judicial proceeding.  In North Dakota, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

  • He and the child’s mother are married (or attempted to marry in compliance with the law), and the child was born during the marriage, or within 300 days after the marriage terminated;
  • After the child was born, he married the mother and voluntarily asserted his paternity in a record filed with the state, he is named on the child’s birth certificate, and he promised to support the child as his own; or
  • For the first two years of the child’s life, the man lived with the child and openly held the child out as his own.

No.  A properly executed acknowledgment of paternity form is the equivalent of a judicial adjudication of paternity, unless and until it is challenged.  Also, a father-child relationship is established, for all intents and purposes, if a presumed father remains unchallenged.  In either circumstance, such a father is granted all the rights and duties of a parent, just like the mother, including the obligation to financially support his child.

Any party who signs an acknowledgment of paternity may rescind it within 60 days or the date of the first court hearing related to the child, whichever is earlier.

Otherwise, an acknowledgment may only be challenged within one year after it is filed, based on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.

If you’ve executed a valid acknowledgment of paternity, or no one has taken any action to rebut the presumption that you are a child’s father, a parent-child relationship has been established.  You have all the rights and duties of a parent.  However, the only way to establish a formal parenting plan or parenting time schedule is to seek the court’s assistance. 

No.  The State does not represent either parent and takes no position regarding the residential responsibility and parenting time rights that would be in a child’s best interests.  The State’s interest is solely in establishing paternity and securing payments for support of the child.      

Yes.  The court has the authority to require a child and any alleged father to submit to genetic testing to determine whether that person is a parent.  However, the court will not order in utero testing.  Genetic testing usually requires a simple, non-invasive blood or hair sample test.  In North Dakota, a man is identified as the father if genetic testing reveals at least a 99% probability of paternity.  The court has the authority to decide who will pay for genetic testing.

If an alleged father simply wishes to admit to the paternity of a child, rather than submit to formal genetic testing, that is also authorized under North Dakota law.

If a child has no presumed, acknowledged, or adjudicated father, an action to determine parentage may be brought at any time, even after the child is already an adult.  Otherwise, yes, there are time limitations that apply in other circumstances.

If a child has a presumed father, an action to adjudicate paternity must be brought within two years of the child’s birth.

If a child has an acknowledged father, an action to adjudicate paternity must be brought within two years of the effective date of the acknowledgment form.

Yes.  An interested party, like the mother, any alleged father, or a child support enforcement agency, may start a paternity proceeding before the birth of a child.  Parties can be required to share necessary information and provide specimens for genetic testing before the child is born.  However, in utero genetic testing of the baby is not allowed, and any paternity action cannot be concluded until after the child arrives.

An adjudication of paternity is the basis for the court to make other decisions regarding the involved child, like changing the child’s name, ordering the state department of health to issue an amended birth certificate, determining residential responsibility (custody) and parenting time (visitation), imposing a child support obligation, and ordering medical insurance coverage.

Also, unless the court includes a specific restriction or exclusion in an order, an adjudicated father of a child has the following rights under North Dakota law:

  • To access and obtain important records of the child, such as school, medical, and religious records;
  • To attend the child’s educational conferences;
  • To have reasonable access to the child through phone, email, or other written means;
  • To be informed if the child suffers a serious accident or injury;
  • To be informed of the child’s home address and phone number;
  • To be notified of the school the child attends.