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Establishing Paternity

If paternity of a child has not been established, Dakota County can provide services to legally determine the legal father of a child.

Married couples
If the parents of a child are married to each other, the husband is the legal father of any child conceived or born while the parents are married.

Unmarried couples
If the parents of a child are not married to each other, it is important that legal paternity be  established, so that the child has a legal father.

How paternity is established
Dakota County provides paternity establishment services to mothers, fathers, potential fathers or custodians of children. There are two ways to establish paternity in the state of Minnesota. Dakota County can use either method to establish the legal father:

  • Recognition of Parentage: Parents can sign a form called Recognition of Parentage. When this form is filed with the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, it legally establishes the father and child relationship. 
  • Court Action: A court can determine the legal father of a child. If paternity establishment services are provided, the county can request that the court determine paternity. A court may order genetic testing if the issue of paternity is disputed.


There are important differences between signing a Recognition of Parentage and establishing a court action. PaternityActionvsRecognitionParentage.pdfFind out more about the differences.

Genetic testing
Dakota County can make arrangements for genetic testing if the County is providing paternity establishment services. The County uses only accredited and court-approved genetic test laboratories.  Dakota County will initially pay the county-arranged testing costs. The courts can determine if these costs must be reimbursed to the County.  Due to the high volume of county arranged tests, the rate charged by the lab is typically lower than the rate changed for privately arranged tests.

If the County arranges testing, it will schedule an appointment for the collection of genetic samples from the mother, potential father and child. 

Samples can be collected from children at any age. Four cotton swabs that are similar to ordinary Q-tips are rubbed on the inside of the cheek for about 30 seconds each.

Results are usually available about three weeks from the date the last genetic sample is received by the lab. Results will not be given out over the phone. Results are mailed or an appointment is scheduled for you to come in and discuss the results.

Last updated: 11/12/2012 10:25 AM