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Archaic Michigan law denies biological father custody of daughter

An old Michigan law stands in the way of a biological father's right to custody of his daughter, while the man who the state says has all the rights is in jail on drug charges. The man is now the inspiration behind a bill that will allow biological parents to petition for child custody in some circumstances.

Currently, The Paternity Act of 1956 says that child custody rights belong to the mother and the man to whom the mother was married at the time of conception. What happens, though, when the biological father is not the mother's husband? This is the recent case that is prompting some to seek changes to the law

The story is being referred to as "the perfect storm" of how much can go wrong in paternity battles. The mother left her husband in Ohio and lived with the man who would be the daughter's biological father in Michigan. She later left the biological father to go back to her husband, taking the daughter with her.

Later, the woman's husband was arrested on drug charges and is now serving a three-year sentence. He reportedly brought the biological father's child to a drug sale. According to documents, he thought the police would be less suspicious of the drug sale if he had kids with him. The mother also admitted to knowing that her husband was involved with growing and selling drugs.

The biological father has DNA test results that prove he is the girl's father and wants to have custody of his daughter. Despite the fact that the biological father is seeking custody and the girl's parents are arguably unfit, Michigan law does not allow him to file a paternity action.

A state senator is co-sponsoring a bill to change the law to allow a biological father to file a petition to determine paternity. The bill will allow a biological father to claim his rights within the first year of the child's life even if the mother is married to another man when the child is conceived. If this passes, the man would be able petition for custody of his child. Because state laws differ regarding child custody, it may be important for a parent to consult a legal professional to determine what his or her options are.

Source: Livingston Daily, "Hartland man fights against state for daughter," Christopher Behnan, Jan. 23, 2012

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