In re the Welfare of: C. F. N. A. S., petitioner, Respondent,
K. C.-W. n/k/a K. N., et al., Appellants.
Olmsted County District Court File No. 55-FA-16-979
R. Braun, Brenton M. Tunis, Restovich Braun & Associates,
Rochester, Minnesota (for respondent)
A. Daudelin, Henschel Moberg, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota
(for appellants) Jill I. Frieders, O'Brien & Wolf,
L.L.P., Rochester, Minnesota (for guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge; Johnson,
Judge; and Tracy M. Smith, Judge.
man has executed a recognition of parentage of a child,
see Minn. Stat. § 257.75 (2018), and another
man seeks to establish that he is the legal father of the
child on the ground that he is the child's biological
father, the second man may commence and maintain a paternity
action under the Minnesota Parentage Act, Minn. Stat.
§§ 257.51-.74 (2018), without seeking or obtaining
a vacatur of the recognition of parentage.
a parentage action to determine who is the father of a
four-year-old boy. One man, who signed a recognition of
parentage, was presumed to be the father because he was
living with the boy's mother when the boy was born and
represented to others that he was the boy's father.
Another man was presumed to be the father because genetic
testing showed that he is the boy's biological father.
The district court resolved the competing presumptions of
paternity by concluding that the biological father should be
adjudicated the child's legal father. The district court
also awarded the biological father and the mother joint legal
custody. The mother and the other presumed father appeal. For
the reasons stated below, we affirm.
August 2013, K.N. learned that she was pregnant. The district
court found that K.N. knew that she had become pregnant
because of sexual intercourse with A.S. At that time, she was
married to but separated from K.W. In addition, she was
sharing a home with J.N., who had been a friend and a
business partner and later became her intimate partner, and
in January 2017, her husband. As their relationship
progressed in 2013, K.N. and J.N. decided to raise the child
together after K.N. gave birth.
April 2014, K.N. gave birth to a baby boy, C.F.N. At the
hospital, K.N. and J.N. signed a recognition of parentage
(ROP), in which they stated under oath that they are the
biological parents of C.F.N. Soon thereafter, K.W. executed a
voluntary statement of nonpaternity, which was filed with the
state registrar along with the ROP. K.N.'s marriage to
K.W. was dissolved in December 2015.
January 2016, when C.F.N. was two years old, A.S. received a
message via social media from a person he did not know
stating that A.S. likely is the biological father of
K.N.'s child. Before receiving that message, A.S. was
aware that K.N. had a young child but did not know the age of
the child and assumed that J.N. was the child's father
and, thus, had no reason to believe that he might be the
biological father of the child. A.S.'s mother and sister
attempted to communicate with K.N. about the child on
A.S.'s behalf, but K.N. refused to engage in such
February 2016, A.S. commenced this paternity action. He
alleged that he is the biological father of C.F.N. and sought
an order adjudicating him as the boy's legal father. He
also sought an award of sole legal custody and sole physical
custody of C.F.N. He named K.N. as the sole respondent.
March 2016, the district court held an initial hearing. A.S.
requested an order authorizing genetic testing. K.N.
voluntarily agreed to genetic testing, which made it
unnecessary for the district court to rule on A.S.'s
request. The genetic test determined that, based on certain
unchallenged assumptions, the probability of A.S.'s
paternity is 99.99999999 percent.
2016, A.S. moved to vacate the ROP that had been executed by
K.N. and J.N. Meanwhile, K.N. and J.N. separately moved to
dismiss A.S.'s paternity action on the grounds that A.S.
did not join J.N. and that A.S. did not have standing to
commence or maintain the action. In the alternative, J.N.
moved to intervene. After a hearing on the motions, the
district court filed an order in November 2016 in which it
denied the motions to dismiss and granted J.N.'s motion
to intervene. In January 2017, the district court filed an
order in which it appointed a guardian ad litem
"to advocate for the best interests of the . . . minor
child." In February 2017, the district court formally
joined C.F.N. as a party and appointed a different guardian
case was tried to a referee on two days in April 2017. A.S.
testified that he and K.N. were in a romantic relationship
from June 2013 until August 10, 2013, when they agreed to
terminate their relationship. He testified that they
voluntarily had sexual intercourse approximately 20 times
during that time period. A.S. called two additional
witnesses, his mother and his sister, who testified about
their knowledge of his relationship with K.N. and A.S.'s
ability and willingness to be a father. K.N. testified that
she saw A.S. only six or seven times in the summer of 2013
and that she did not have a romantic or intimate relationship
with him. She testified that they had sexual contact on only
one occasion, on July 27, 2013, but that it was not
consensual. The district court found that K.N.' s
testimony was not credible. J.N. testified that he knew that
he was not the biological father of C.F.N. when he signed the
ROP. K.N. and J.N. also called J.N.'s step-mother and
K.W.'s mother as witnesses to testify about their
knowledge of C.F.N.'s paternity and K.N.'s and
J.N.'s parenting abilities. A.S. called two rebuttal
witnesses. His roommate in the summer of 2013 testified that
A.S. and K.N. appeared to be in an intimate relationship and
that K.N. spent the night with A.S. at their apartment
approximately 15 times. A mutual acquaintance testified that
K.N. told her in August 2013 that she had become pregnant
because of sexual intercourse with A.S. but that she was not
going to tell him about the pregnancy. The guardian
ad litem testified that J.N. should be adjudicated
the father of C.F.N. and that A.S. should be introduced to
C.F.N. at a later date, after consultation with a therapist.
2017, the referee issued a 39-page order with findings of
fact, conclusions of law, a recommended order, and a
memorandum. The referee recommended that A.S. be adjudicated
the legal father of C.F.N., that C.F.N.'s birth
certificate be changed to reflect that A.S. is the father,
that K.N. and A.S. be awarded joint legal custody, and that
K.N. be awarded temporary sole physical custody. The
referee's recommendation also stated, "This order
has the effect of vacating the Recognition of Parentage
signed by Mother and [J.N.]." The referee's analysis
was reflected primarily in the memorandum. The referee
reviewed the law governing competing presumptions of
paternity, applied the statutory best-interests factors, and
discussed additional policy considerations, such as
A.S.'s biological connection to C.F.N., the relevance of
K.N.'s relationships with her former husband and her
present husband, and the fact that K.N. and J.N. signed the
ROP despite knowing that J.N. was not the biological father.
The referee concluded that "the weightier considerations
of logic and policy require that Petitioner be adjudicated
the legal father of C.F.N." A district court judge
approved the recommendation, and judgment was entered. K.N.
and J.N. appeal and raise multiple issues.
the district court err by ruling that A.S. had standing to
commence and maintain this paternity action?
the district court err in its analysis of the applicable
statutes and in its conclusion that A.S. should be
adjudicated the legal father of C.F.N.?
Did the district court err by awarding joint legal custody of
the child to K.N. and A.S.?
the district court commit reversible error by not joining
J.N. and C.F.N. as parties at an earlier stage of pre-trial
proceedings and by not joining K.W.?
appeal arises under the Minnesota Parentage Act (MPA), which
spans 26 sections of the Minnesota Statutes. See