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Minnesota Custody of Children Born Out of Wedlock

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.


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The non-custodial parent is responsible for paying child support. In Minnesota the amount of child support is based on the non-custodial parent's income and the number of dependent children. A court may adjust the support amount at its discretion. Factors examined for adjustment include: (1) the custodial parent's income and assets, (2) any extraordinary financial needs the child may have, such as medical or educational expenses, (3) the child's standard of living during the parents' marriage and (4) whether the paying parent receives public assistance.
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