The family model in America is rapidly changing along with the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood. More children are being born to unmarried parents and extramarital affairs can have unintended consequences. A man present at the birth of a child is sometimes pressed to sign an affidavit of paternity, even when his genetic link to the child is uncertain. A single parent applies for welfare to make ends meet, and the prosecuting attorney intervenes to identify absentee mothers and fathers and bring them into court, reengaging parties who may be better off left apart.
With more children born in to and raised in these traditional homes, attorneys who can navigate the law in pursuit of the best possible outcomes for children and parents are a valuable commodity.
Establishing the legal rights and obligations of the biological father of a child – known as paternity – is occasionally the first step in seeking custody and parenting time with a child or obtaining child support from a parent. Under Michigan law, paternity can be established several ways. Children conceived or born during a marriage are “presumed” to be the product of the marriage unless shown otherwise, giving a spouse’s parental standing the benefit of the doubt.
Paternity for children born to unmarried parents – or “out of wedlock” – is most often established by signing an acknowledgment of parentage (sometimes called an “affidavit of paternity”) near the time of a child’s birth, often while the parties are still in the hospital. Occasionally this can be done after the fact, with or without genetic testing. The when, where, who, why and how behind signing these acknowledgements is pivotal if questions arise later on with respect to paternity.
When paternity is disputed, an alleged or acknowledged father can ask the court to order genetic testing to determine whether a child is biologically his. The mother can also petition the court to remove or have added a father’s name to the birth certificate. Finally, an agency, like Child Protective Services, has the authority to seek a determination of paternity in certain cases. All of these avenues usually involve the order of genetic testing if certain allegations are proven, however, the success of any paternity action will depend on which law applies:
- The Paternity Act, MCL 722.711 et seq., applies in cases where paternity has never been established
- The Acknowledgement of Paternity Act, MCL 722.1001 et seq., applies in cases where the parties weren’t married or the mother’s spouse is found not to be the biological parent of the child
- The Revocation of Paternity Act, MCL 722.1431 et seq., applies in cases where the wrong man was identified as the legal father of the child
- The Genetic Parentage Act, MCL 722.1461 et seq., applies in cases where the parties weren’t married and one parent is receiving state assistance.
Why an Experienced Paternity Lawyer Is Necessary
Knowing which law applies and what you must prove to win your case can be challenging. In the past decade, the passage of the Revocation of Paternity Act and the Genetic Paternity Act has made paternity one of the most complex areas of Michigan family law.
Each statutory scheme brings with it different factors, timeframes, and burdens of proof for the court to consider. If your case is inadvertently filed under the wrong statute, it could be dismissed. Knowing which parties need to be involved and what they must prove to establish or contest paternity requires a very particular type of legal expertise that even some longstanding divorce lawyers may not be aware of.
If you are intent upon challenging or establishing legal paternity, you will need an experienced attorney to identify what kind of action to bring, when to bring it, who to serve, and how to prosecute your case.
Contact us to schedule your free consultation with an experienced paternity lawyer to find out how Michigan’s rapidly changing paternity laws can work for you. Fathers looking to establish their parental rights and/or discover the truth through genetic testing will also benefit from our experience resolving these sensitive matters.
Schedule Your FREE Consultation