What is Paternity?
Under Michigan law, paternity is simply legal fatherhood. As you’ll read below, sometimes it isn’t so simple after all. Determining which man is the father of certain child has many advantages to the mother, the child, and the father.
If the mother can prove that a man has paternity of her child, she can then ask that man to pay child support, share in medical expenses incurred during childbirth, and other financial support. It also can be important for the child to know who his or her father is.
This can help the child gain a sense of belonging and get a better understanding of his or her family and medical history. The father too can gain by determining his paternity. Once his paternity is determined, the father can request physical custody, legal custody, parenting time, and child support from the child’s mother.
Michigan public policy strongly favors determining the paternity of children. This is true in all our counties including Eaton County, Ingham County, Livingston County and Clinton County.
How is Paternity Determined?
Establishing paternity can be difficult, depending on the particular situation. The first thing to determine is whether or not the mother conceived or gave birth to the child while she was married. If she was married, it is presumed that her husband is the father for child.
However, this presumption can be rebutted. If there is reason to believe that her husband was not the father of the child, the court can decide this.
If the mother was not married at the time of conception or birth of her child, establishing paternity can be trickier. An analysis may occur depending on whether or not the mother and father agree on the paternity of the child.
Paternity Laws in Michigan
If both parents AGREE on the paternity of the child:
Establishing paternity is relatively easy when both parents can agree on the paternity of the child. If they agree on the paternity of the child, the parents must fill out form called an Affidavit of Parentage. By signing this affidavit, the father agrees to assume all the rights and responsibilities that come with being the father of the child.
This affidavit can be signed at any time for a small fee. However, it is free to fill it out at the hospital at the time of the birth of the child. Once the affidavit is signed, the paternity will be listed on the child’s birth certificate. It is important to read this affidavit carefully before signing it. One provision in this Affidavit of Parentage gives the mother custody of the child. This custody arrangement is subject to change but that change needs to be by court order. Your family law attorney can assist with changing the custody provision.
Although determining paternity has many benefits, it also comes with many responsibilities and even the loss of certain rights. Once both parents have signed the Affidavit of Parentage, they waive the right to genetically test for the biological father the child. Parents also waive the right to representation of a court-appointed attorney and a paternity lawsuit.
Finally, parents waive the right to a trial to determine if the father is indeed the biological father of the child. All of that aside, in recent years Michigan has passed the Revocation of Paternity Act. This law permits revocation of the paternity under limited circumstances and for a limited period of time. It is important that parents act very promptly if they suspect that paternity was incorrectly determined.
It is also important to know that a mother is automatically given custody to her child. The court can take away this custody later on, or the mother and father can agree upon a different custody arrangement in writing. Even though the mother is given automatic custody upon the birth of her child, the father can still file a claim for custody or parenting time in Family Court.
Signing the Affidavit of Parentage obligates both parents to financially support their child until this child is 18 years old. Both parents will now also have the right to attend any adoption hearings dealing with the child.
The age of the father is not taken into consideration in a paternity issue. A man married to a woman who is not the mother of his child can still sign an Affidavit of Parentage. Oftentimes, your first step will be to hire an experienced family law attorney. That will lead to a visit to the Friend of the Court. Their office is accustomed to dealing with paternity issues and will help by giving you custody recommendations and calculating child support obligations.
If the parents DO NOT AGREE on the paternity of the child:
When the mother and father don’t agree on the paternity of the child, the court gets involved. What has happened is either the mother or the father did not sign the Affidavit of Parentage. Normally it is the father who does not sign the Affidavit of Parentage because, for whatever reason, he does not want to voluntarily assume paternity of the child.
However, occasionally it is the mother who refuses to sign the Affidavit of Parentage. She may refuse either because she does not know who the father is or because she does not want the father to be involved in the child’s life. One parent or the other then usually hires a custody lawyer to begin the court process to determine paternity of the child.
No matter the case, both the mother and the father have the right to attend a court hearing to determine the paternity of the child. One reliable way to determine paternity is through DNA testing. This is done by taking a sample tissue of the mother, the child, and the alleged father. The results will either come back negative or 99% probability that this man is the father of the child.
The court determines who pays for the test. Determining payment could depend on whether the mother receives public benefits, welfare, Medicaid, or housing assistance. If she does, then the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) may become involved and ask the Michigan Family Court to order the DNA testing.
The court can also begin to determine paternity through verifying whether a “Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity” has been filed. The alleged father will file the Notice either before or when his child is born. The Michigan courts will be alerted that a Notice has been filed, if it was properly filed in Michigan. The courts then presume that this man is the father of the child, but the mother can overcome this presumption.
If this is the case, the father can get DNA tests done to try to prove that he is indeed the father of the child. The next steps will be for the court to review the evidence in the paternity case and enter an order regarding paternity. This is called a Judgment of Filiation, or Order of Filiation. Once this is completed, the father is legally allowed to request parenting time and custody and will have the responsibility of paying child support.
Since Michigan encourages families to determine the paternity of their children, many counties are anxious to help in the process. This is especially true for courts in Lansing, Charlotte, St. Johns, Gratiot County, and Jackson County.
However, even though the state of Michigan is ready to help you, you should still be sure that you hire experienced attorneys to protect you during the process. Our family law attorneys here at The Kronzek Firm are very experienced in the complexities of paternity law and will fight for the rights of you and your child.
The Mother’s Rights to Put Her Child Up for Adoption
Can a mother put her child up for adoption without the father’s consent? Is a mother forced to keep her child if the father is not involved in the child’s life?
These questions can sometimes have complicated answers, and it often depends on the specific situation of the individuals involved. There are times when the mother does not know the paternity of her child or when the father cannot be identified. In attempt to solve these types of issues, the Michigan Adoption Code was created.
The Michigan Adoption Code allows for mothers to give their children up for adoption without the father’s consent in certain situations. This can occur, for instance, when reasonable efforts have been made to identify and located the father, and the father:
1) did not assist the mother during her pregnancy, and
2) has not made any arrangements for the child’s care.
If this is the case, the court can terminate the father’s parental rights. Terminating the father’s parental rights means that the mother can decide what is best for the child. The mother may choose to give the child up for adoption and she would not have to ask the father for permission to do so.
In other cases, the father has been identified, but he cannot be located. In this case too, the court can terminate the father’s parental rights. To do this, the court must determine that:
1) reasonable efforts have been made to locate the father, and
2) in the past 90 days, the father has not provided for the mother, shown any interest in being part of the child’s life, or made any provisions for the child’s care.
Again, if the court has terminated the father’s parental rights, then the mother is free to put her child up for adoption. However, if the father’s identity and whereabouts are known, then the mother cannot waive his parental rights without him knowing. Still, the father would have to establish paternity over the child. The father can do this by:
1) being married to the child’s mother either during the conception or birth of the child;
2) voluntarily assuming paternity through an Affidavit of Parentage or Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity; or
3) a court order.
Your Paternity Attorneys
The Kronzek Firm attorneys are ready to help you with your paternity case all throughout the lower peninsula of Michigan. Whether you are a mother or a father, we have the expertise to serve you.
If you are a mother, we can help you file a paternity suit in the Family Court so that the alleged father will be required to help support the child. If you are a father, we can help you with the Affidavit of Parentage or the Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity so that your parental rights can be asserted.
Our adept attorneys have been practicing Family Law in Mid-Michigan for decades. We have extensive experience in Lansing, Jackson County, Easton County, Ingham County, Ionia County, Clinton County, Shiawassee County, and Gratiot County. Schedule a FREE consultation with us to discuss your case.