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Establishing Paternity under Michigan Law

There are exactly two situations in which paternity is easy to establish under Michigan law:

  • When the mother is married to a man at the time the child was conceived or born, and no other man disagrees with the assumption, the man is assumed to be the child’s father.
  • When the mother and a man agree that the man is the child’s father, they can fill out an Affidavit of Parentage which allows the man to assume parental rights. This is true even if the man is married to another woman, no matter the man’s age (excluding, naturally, his being too young to legally sign the Affidavit in the first place.)

Fathers and Affidavits of Parentage
A couple of notes about Affidavits of Parentage: if you are a father due to Affidavit rather than because you were married to the mother, the court will (almost) automatically give the mother custody of the child; you will have to file a claim for custody or parenting time. Also, by signing the Affidavit, you are signing yourself onto a financial obligation to support the child until they turn 18, and possibly beyond.

Finally, signing an Affidavit of Parentage denies you a few rights. You lose:

  • The right to request a genetic test to establish your paternity,
  • The right to a court-appointed attorney in any future paternity litigation, and
  • The right to a trial that determines your status as father.

Essentially, by making this commitment, you are the child’s father for every purpose as far as the law is concerned — it’s a legal move you cannot unmake. If you have questions or concerns about signing an Affidavit of Parentage, contact the Michigan Friend of the Courts; their job is to assist people like you in situations like yours.

If The Alleged Parents Disagree
There are two circumstances in which no Affidavit of Parenthood can be signed:

  • When the man believes that he is not the father of the child, or
  • When the woman doesn’t want the man to be the father, usually because she believes it is in her child’s best interest to not be related to the man.

Under these circumstances, the parent seeking to establish a parental relationship will file a claim with a Circuit Court. The court will generally proceed by taking a DNA sample of mother, father, and child. The DNA test is assumed to be correct in its verdict: if the test finds matching DNA, paternity is declared and the legal relationship is established. The court determines which party pays for the DNA test based on fairness, ability, and the circumstances of the suit.

If Another Man Disagrees
There is also one circumstance to be covered: when a man and a woman agree that a child is theirs, but another man believes the child is his. That other man must file a claim of paternity in court, at which point the court will almost always ask him to pay for a DNA test to establish paternity.

Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity
There is one other less-common route for fathers seeking to establish paternity: a filing called the Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity can be submitted by an erstwhile father. Every time a child is born in a Michigan hospital, they are required to check for a Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity; if such a Notice has been filed, paternity is automatically assumed. (The mother can fight this in court, but that almost always happens sometime after the child has been born. If she does, the DNA test is almost always the result.)

If you’re a mother who believes your child’s father won’t acknowledge them, or a father who believes your child’s mother is trying to keep you from them, call Gucciardo Family Law today — we can help.

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We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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