The Importance of Establishing Paternity in Michigan

When a child is born to a woman who is married, the law presumes that her husband is the father unless otherwise proven. However, no legal presumptions about fatherhood exist for children born to unwed parents. Without legal paternity, fathers have no rights regarding their children. Fathers who have children outside of marriage should understand why it is vital to establish paternity of their children and how to go about doing so.

Why Establishing Paternity Matters

There are a variety of reasons for fathers to establish paternity of their children. Without establishing paternity, a man has no legal rights to see his children or to be involved in major decisions affecting their lives. If a mother wants to keep a man's children from him and he has not established paternity, he has no legal recourse.

Children also benefit from having established paternity. Among other things, it ensures their eligibility for their fathers' health insurance, disability and death benefits.

Methods for Establishing Paternity

Fathers can use one of two ways to establish paternity in Michigan:

  • Affidavit of Parentage: A father can fill out an Affidavit of Parentage and file it with the state registrar. In so doing create a permanent record of paternity in the Michigan Department of Community Health's Central Parentage Registry. Only after the Department of Vital Records receives notice of a filing of an Affidavit of Parentage can it list the father's name on the birth certificate of a child born to unmarried parents.
  • Court proceedings: If the child's mother will not cooperate with establishing paternity, the father can pursue legal proceedings. The court will issue a summons and order blood tests to determine paternity if either parent denies the man is the father of the child. If either party wishes to contest the blood test results, the court will hold a hearing. After the test results, or at the conclusion of the hearing, the court will enter an order of filiation, legally establishing the child's paternity. If the parents agree on custody and parenting time, the court may also issue a custody and parenting time order along with the order of filiation. If the parents cannot agree on custody, the court may issue a temporary custody order and set the matter for a hearing.

Changes to Paternity Laws

On June 12, 2012, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill amending the state's parentage laws. The new law allows a man greater opportunity to prove paternity of a child, even when another man is legally acknowledged as a child's father. Under the old law, if a child was born to a woman who was married, the woman's husband was presumed to be the child's father and it was impossible for anyone to challenge that presumption. Now, the mother, the legal father or a man who believes he is the biological father may file a paternity action, and the court will order blood tests to determine paternity. The court will then declare parentage based on the test results.

Talk to a Lawyer

Being a non-custodial father is difficult, even under the best circumstances. The challenge intensifies when the father has no rights to his children because he has not established paternity. If you are facing child paternity issues, contact an experienced child custody attorney who can advise you of your options.