Establishing Paternity in Michigan
Society is always changing and evolving. While it used to be uncommon – and even frowned upon – for unmarried parents to have children, today it is very commonplace. However, even though it is quite acceptable now for parents not to marry, the legal rights of both parents still need to be established. This is where “paternity” law comes in.
When a child is born to a mother who is not married to the child’s biological father, “paternity” needs to be established. When paternity is established, the biological father is then also considered the legal father.
Once paternity is established the father has certain rights, including the right to seek parenting time (visitation), and even custody, of the minor child. Additionally, establishing paternity also gives the mother certain legal rights, such as the right to seek child support from the father.
There Are 2 Ways to Establish Paternity Outside of Marriage
When parents of a child are not married at the time of the conception or birth the father’s “paternity” must be established through one of two legal methods: an Affidavit of Parentage; or an Order of Filiation.
1. Establishing Paternity with an Affidavit of Parentage
Parents of a child may voluntarily establish paternity by both signing a “sworn statement” called an Acknowledgement of Parentage – or “AOP”. Often, unmarried parents will sign the Acknowledgement of Parentage at the hospital, at the time of the child’s birth. However, an AOP can be signed at any point in the child’s life.
Note though, that an Acknowledgement of Parentage cannot be signed if the mother was married to a different man than the biological father when the child was conceived or born.
Additionally, although both parents voluntarily signed the AOP, the mother still has initial custody of the child. This means that the biological father does not have any rights to custody or visitation (parenting time) unless he files a case with the County Court.
In other words the AOP does not “automatically” give a dad the right to have custody or visitation – it simply gives him “legal standing” to file a case with the County Court for custody and/or parenting time. And, once the action is filed with the Court, child support will also be determined.
2. Establishing Paternity with an Order of Filiation
In some cases either the mother or the father may refuse to sign the Acknowledgement of Parentage. This may be because they disagree about – or do not know for sure – who the child’s biological father is. In other cases, a mother may refuse to sign the AOP because she does not want the father involved in the child’s life. And in some cases, a father may refuse to sign the AOP to avoid child rearing or child support responsibilities.
When one (or both) parties refuse to sign an Acknowledgement of Parentage, paternity must be established by filing a legal action to obtain a Court Order, which is called an Order of Filiation. Either the mother or the father may file such a “paternity case”. The case must be filed in the family division of the Circuit Court in the county where the mother and child reside.
If either parent (or alleged parent) in the paternity case disputes the alleged paternity they can file a Motion with the Court to order DNA testing – in an attempt to determine the paternity. Under Michigan law, if the DNA test results show a probability of paternity of 99% or greater, it is presumed the man is the father.
When the court determines paternity through the Order of Filiation, it will always also include specific provisions for custody, parenting time (visitation), and child support. And, when there is a dispute over custody and visitation, the court must immediately enter a Temporary Order establishing custody and parenting time until a permanent solution is put in place.
Changes in Michigan Law for Paternity Cases
If a husband and wife are legally married when a child is born, the father is “presumed” – or automatically considered – to be the legal father of the child. Even if the husband is not actually the biological father of the child, the law will still “automatically” consider him the legal father if he was married to the mother at the time the child was conceived or born (until proven otherwise).
Up until June 2012, a biological father was not allowed to file a case for paternity in situations where the mother was married to another man at the time of conception or birth. However, a law called the Revocation of Paternity Act (ROPA) changed that in 2012. Now an alleged biological father can file a paternity case, even if the child’s mother was married when the child was conceived or born.
And, under some limited circumstances, the Revocation of Paternity laws also allow a parent to file a court case to set aside (“throw out”) a previous Acknowledgement of Parentage or Order of Filiation.
Oakland County Paternity Lawyers
Paternity law can be complicated. And, so much that affects your life and your child’s life is at stake in a paternity case. Crucial child support, visitation, and even custody decisions will be put in place depending upon the outcome of your paternity action. For this reason it is very important to discuss your paternity matter with a caring and experienced paternity lawyer.