I’ve handled several cases in my career where men have come to me and said “I’ve just been told I might be the dad to a 5 year-old?” and the flip-side to that scenario, too, where I’ve heard “I AM the father to a 5 year-old, but I can’t get my name on his birth certificate?”  What gives?

North Dakota has enacted the Uniform Parentage Act (N.D.C.C.§14-20), in response to a federal mandate that states provide for parentage proceedings at any time prior to a child turning 18 years-old.  It defines distinctions for “Acknowledged fathers,” “Adjudicated fathers,” “Alleged fathers,” and “Presumed fathers.”  Well, what are you?

  • An acknowledged father is a man that has established a father-child relationship by signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity shortly after the child’s birth.  This label is generally used prior to parties obtaining a court order.
  • An adjudicated father is just what it sounds like – a court has determined a man is the father of a child and has issued an order adjudicating his rights.
  • An alleged father is a man who believes himself to be the possible genetic father of a child, but his paternity has not been determined through testing or a court order.
  • Lastly, a presumed father is a man who is legally recognized as the father of child, until a court order establishes otherwise.   This is where things get a bit hairy.

The law presumes a man is the father of a child if the child was:

  • born during marriage;
  • born within 300 days of a divorce;
  • born to a couple that later married and the man voluntarily asserted his paternity through a recorded document filed with the State Department of Health; or
  • living with the “father” and mother in the same household for the first 2 years of his/her life and the man openly held the child out as his own.

If there is a presumed father, the law has very specific timelines and requirements to rebut the presumption.

  • Option One: If anybody wants to disprove the legal parent-child relationship of a presumed father, an action must be commenced before the child turns 2 years-old; or,
  • Option Two:  If the child is older than 2 years-old at the time of the action, you must prove that the presumed father and mother didn’t live together or engage in intercourse during the probable time of conception and the presumed father never held the child out as his own.

So, the “father” who learns of a 5 year-old child may or may not become legally responsible for him/her if there is already a presumed father that is actively involved in the child’s life, or if the presumptions cannot be overcome.  If you believe you may be the father to a child, it’s very important to act with urgency and consult with an attorney about your rights.