In Minnesota, the determination of custody for children born out of wedlock is no different than the determination of custody for children of marriage — both are decided pursuant to the “best interest of the child" standard set forth in Minnesota Statute section 518.17. It is important to understand, however, that until a custody order is issued, the mother of a child born out of wedlock has sole legal and sole physical custody by operation of law.  Also, the father of a child born out of wedlock generally has no standing to obtain custody until paternity has first been legally established. This may be accomplished by means of a Recognition of Parentage signed by both parties,  or by means of a Judgment of Paternity.  Custody can be decided as part of the paternity proceedings. Alternatively, if paternity has already been established by a Recognition of Parentage, the father may obtain a custody determination by bringing a Petition for Custody and Parenting Time.  For unmarried fathers who are living with their child's mother, it is a good idea to file a joint custody petition to obtain a court order granting you joint legal and joint physical custody, to protect you in case the relationship fails. Footnotes:
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