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Minnesota programs support responsible fatherhood

Historically, when parents were in battles over the custody and support of children, Minnesota courts tended to side with mothers, or what legislators and judges believed to be the more natural caregiver. The legal landscape of the last three decades has changed considerably, and now fathers are often considered just as capable as mothers when it comes to caring for their children - and sometimes more capable in certain situations. This new reality is often acknowledged in child-custody and paternity cases.

As part of the recognition that fathers have parental rights equal to those of mothers, establishing paternity has now become a point of focus in most states, especially given that many more mothers now have children without being married to their children's fathers. Establishing paternity allows a father is to be legally recognized as a parent, and thus to have both rights and responsibilities under the law.

Certain state programs now exist to enable men who want to bond with their children, and satisfy the legal requirements, to be considered fathers. Among these programs, the Easter Seals Minnesota FATHER project, and the Urban Ventures offer many social services that promote deep and nurturing relationships between fathers and their children. Both programs receive federal funding.

The FATHER program offers parenting workshops, child-support services, case-management and relationship classes. The project is specifically geared to serve low-income fathers and to allow them to become better parents. The Urban Ventures program is similar and provides classes on responsible parenting and employment services to low-income fathers.

Even with these programs as well as other government help, establishing paternity remains a concern in Minnesota. Paternity disputes, in particular, tend to be heated affairs between parents as well as between parents and the state government. Anyone involved in such a dispute in Minnesota should consider consulting an attorney.

Source: Fatherhood.gov, "NRFC State Profile: Minnesota 2013," accessed on Feb. 5, 2015

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