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Michigan man contests parental rights law

A Michigan man who fathered a child with a married woman is contesting a law that allowed the woman to deny him his parental rights. The man is questioning the constitutionality of the statute, which grants mothers significant discretion in deciding whether biological fathers can claim paternity rights following the birth of a child conceived during an adulterous affair.

Michigan lawmakers passed the Revocation of Paternity Act in the summer of 2012, allowing a Michigan woman to decide whether her child's biological father should be awarded parental rights if she is married to another man. The father and his attorney have criticized the law as unconstitutional, arguing that it denies equal protection to fathers. The attorney asserted that no court would allow a married man to restrict the parental rights of his child's biological mother in a similar fashion. "His rights should be the same as her rights," the lawyer contended.

The father has taken the issue to the Michigan Court of Appeals, where he hopes the law will be reassessed and reversed, thus granting him the parental rights he seeks. The likelihood of such an outcome is unclear, however, as an Appeals Court judge has already informed the man's attorney that the law clearly delineates when a father may challenge the paternity of a child conceived with a married woman.

The judge did acknowledge that the precedents supporting the Revocation of Paternity Act aimed at protecting the unity of families; the father's attorney contends that the mother's decision to engage in a four-year-long extramarital affair was not motivated by a desire to keep her family together. As such, the father said he is hopeful that the court will support his claim.

The mother's lawyer asserts that the law clearly grants her client the right to revoke the man's parental rights, especially since he knew she was married for the entire duration of their affair. She argued that the court acted rightly in abiding by the Revocation of Paternity Act revoking the father's paternity. Shed added that changing the law is a "legislative matter" and thus should not be addressed in the court system. Clearly legal counsel is crucial in such cases to ferret out the most just outcome.

Source:  WXYZ, "Dad files appeal over law allowing mom to decide who raises child born out of extramarital affair" Scott Lewis, Jun. 13, 2013

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