Paternity in Michigan
When a child is born to a married couple, the husband is legally presumed to be the child’s father, and no action is required to establish his parental rights and responsibilities. When the child’s parents aren’t married, paternity is not established automatically. There are three ways that paternity may be established.
Paternity may be established by agreement between the parents, or a court may determine paternity.
Affidavit of Parentage
The quickest and easiest way to legally establish paternity is for both parents to execute an Affidavit of Parentage. The procedure is as simple as filling out a form, which can be completed free of charge at the hospital or obtained and filed later. Although the completion of the Affidavit is fairly straightforward, either parent may wish to consult an attorney to be sure that he or she fully understands the legal impact of taking that step.
For example, a parent who signs and submits the Affidavit is waiving his or her right to genetic testing to determine the biological father. A mother who acknowledges paternity must be prepared for the likelihood that the father will be granted parenting time, and a father completing the Affidavit should expect to be ordered to pay child support.
Mother Petitions to Establish Paternity
If the father is unwilling to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, the mother may ask the court to determine paternity of the child. In some cases, if the mother is receiving or applying to receive public benefits, she will be required to cooperate with a paternity case.
In this type of case, the court will order genetic testing to determine parentage of the child. The father may be ordered to pay for such testing, even if the case was commenced by the mother.
Father Petitions to Establish Paternity
It is somewhat less common for a father to initiate a paternity case, but a man who has fathered a child outside of marriage may ask the court to make a legal determination of paternity to protect his access to the child. A man who was not married to the child’s mother at the time she became pregnant or gave birth has no legal right to see the child or otherwise participate in his or her upbringing unless and until paternity has been established.
After Paternity is Established
Once paternity has been established, the legal issues to be resolved are similar to those a divorcing couple faces. The parents or the court must resolve custody, parenting time, child support and other financial issues. There are some variations, though. For example, when the parents complete an Affidavit of Parentage, initial custody is automatically granted to the mother unless the parents agree otherwise in writing or a court grants custody to the father.
However, a father whose paternity has been established has the same right to parenting time, and even to petition for custody, as a father whose parentage was established automatically by virtue of his marriage to the child’s mother at the pertinent time.
Likewise, a non-custodial parent—mother or father—has the same obligation to pay child support as a non-custodial parent after divorce, and the child support calculation is the same.
A Michigan Paternity Lawyer Can Help Protect Your Rights
Whether you’re a mother attempting to collect child support from a man you believe to be the father of your child, you’re a father who wishes to establish paternity and build a relationship with his child, or paternity has already been established and you are looking to resolve issues of custody, visitation and child support, Tara L. Sharp can help.
Get the supportive guidance you need to make good decisions for your future and your child’s.
Call 269-978-6560 to schedule your free consultation.