For most children, there is no question as to who their parents are. However, as the marriage rate continues to drop as millennials enter and progress through adulthood, issues of paternity and who has rights as a legal parent are likely to become more common. Unmarried parents rarely pursue establishing paternity until there is a separation and the father tries to seek shared custody and parenting time or the mother seeks receipt of child support.
Presently, a Michigan father finds himself in court fighting over the issue of paternity five years after separating from his daughter’s mother. Men who father children out of wedlock must satisfy several requirements before a court will recognize them as their children’s legal parents. Women, due to their integral role in childbirth, are automatically recognized as the natural parents of their children and are granted legal custody of the child as soon as the child is born. If the parties are not married, the father then must prove their paternity. A court’s decision about the paternity of a child has long-term consequences about who has the right to physical and legal custody of the child. Therefore, this must be approached in a proactive manner. There are steps a man can take to confirm his fatherhood before it is disputed in court. An overview of several options available under Michigan law to establish paternity will be outlined below.
Acknowledgement of Parentage
An easy method to establish some foundation for paternity of child is to fill out and submit an Acknowledgement of Paternity form. This form is filled out by both parents and signed before a notary public. There must also be one witness of the execution of the document, and this person must be an employee of a hospital or medical facility, associated with the courts, a representative from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or an employee at a jail or prison.
If this form is correctly completed, it serves to establish paternity in the Court as this issue relates to child custody, support, and parenting time. No further action is necessary to show that a man is the natural parent of his child. Submitting the form also waives the right of either parent to request any of the following:
- Genetic testing to determine parentage;
- The right to an attorney in a Court action to determine if the man is the biological father; and
- A trial to decide if the man is the biological father.
A second method that is commonly used if there is a question or dispute over who fathered a child is genetic testing. Genetic testing in Michigan compares the blood or tissue of the mother and purported father against that of the child to determine if the father is biologically related to the child. Both parents must consent to the testing, and paternity will only be determined if the man’s DNA has a 99% probability or higher of being directly related to the child.
The mother retains the initial custody of the child once paternity is proven through either method discussed here, but this does not give her an advantage as to which parent should be awarded custody rights if the court is asked to rule on custody at a later time.
Hire a Michigan Family Law Attorney
Fathers who want to establish paternity of a child so they can gain custodial or visitation rights could find themselves involved in a drawn-out process if the mother decides to dispute these issues. Retaining the services of an experienced family attorney who understands the investment parents have in their children is important to achieving the best possible result. The Clinton Township Law Firm of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. puts the best interests of their clients first and will work with them to obtain their desired outcome. Contact their office now for your free legal consultation.