How to Establish Paternity in Michigan

Father and son sitting together - establishing paternity concept

Establishing paternity is often considered a “father’s rights” issue, but making sure your child has two legal parents can be important for moms and dads alike. Here is how to establish paternity in Michigan, and an explanation of why you want to do it sooner than later.

Why You Should Establish Paternity

Often, when a child is born to unmarried parents, one parent will resist taking steps to establish paternity and put both parents’ names on the child’s birth certificate. However, everyone involved in a child’s birth benefits from establishing paternity.

How Parents Benefit from Paternity

The term paternity means the legal parental relationship between the father and child. Once paternity has been established, a father may file a case for custody, parenting time, or child support without the added time and expense of a paternity test.

Mothers also benefit from a streamlined paternity process. When families don’t live together, a mother can file a complaint for child support to get help paying a child’s expenses from that child’s father. If paternity has not been established, a child support order will be delayed until the father’s biological connection to the child is established through genetic testing.

How Children Benefit from Having Two Legal Parents

Even more than fathers, children born to unmarried parents benefit from the early establishment of parentage and development of parental bonds with both parents. Legally speaking, children have the right to support from both parents, and can inherit from both parents after they die. However, the emotional connection between parent and child goes much further than legal parentage rights. Starting that process early can help a child develop healthy attachments to both parents and model a positive family dynamic, even outside of marriage.

Establish Paternity Out-of-Court

It is not hard to establish a father’s parental rights, even without getting the court involved. If a child’s mother is married at the time the child was conceived or born, her spouse is legally assumed to be the child’s parent. That spouse can automatically be included on the birth certificate and can request custody, parenting time, or child support as part of a future divorce.

A note for same-sex couples: Michigan has not updated its Paternity Act to include gender neutral language related to a mother’s spouse. However, most courts apply the parental presumption to a woman’s wife in a same-sex marriage as well as a woman’s husband in a heterosexual marriage. In addition, non-biological mothers may have “equitable parent” arguments in support of their custody and parenting time claims.

How Long Does a Father Have to Establish Paternity?

If the child’s parents are not married, the easiest way to establish paternity is by signing an Affidavit of Parentage (also called an Acknowledgment of Paternity). You can do this in the hospital right after the delivery, or any time until the child turns 18 years old. This affidavit must be filed with the State of Michigan. Once that is done, it establishes a father’s rights, and gives him the same right to file a custody action as the mother or presumed father. However, under the Acknowledgment of Parentage Act, the mother is automatically granted initial custody of the child until the father goes to court.

What is an Order of Filiation in Custody, Parenting Time, and Support Cases?

If either parent refuses to sign an Affidavit of Parentage, the other parent can file a Complaint for Paternity in a Michigan family court. This will trigger an order for genetic testing to determine that the alleged father is biologically related to the child. If that test comes back positive, the Court will enter an “Order of Filiation.” This establishes the father’s parental rights and allows custody, parenting time, and child support orders to be entered.

Note that if you are a father whose rights have not yet been established through an Affidavit of Parentage, the Court cannot technically award you custody or parenting time until an Order of Filiation has been entered. Don’t delay in completing your genetic testing, or it may extend the time you and your child are separated.

What if the Wrong Person is on the Birth Certificate?

Sometimes, a new relationship overlaps an old marriage, or a mother is uncertain about who the child’s father actually is. In these cases, the wrong person can sometimes end up on the birth certificate. Michigan law allows for a mother, legal father, or a person who believes themselves to be the biological father to file a Revocation of Paternity Action in family court. This is the first step to correcting the error and establishing paternity for the child’s biological father.

These lawsuits are complicated, and the requirements for filing them depend on who you are in relation to the child, and what happened around the time the child was born. In most cases, the complaint must also be filed before a child’s third birthday. If you think the wrong person is on your child’s birth certificate, you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible to see if you are eligible to file a Revocation of Paternity Action.

Get Help Establishing Paternity from a Michigan Family Lawyer

You don’t have to wait for your child’s other parent to give you permission to establish paternity or see your child. At NSSSB, we want to help you establish your legal relationship and your emotional bond with your son or daughter. Our Southeast Michigan family law attorneys are happy to assist mothers and fathers alike with Michigan paternity law and what your options are to establish a biological father’s paternity. Click here to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.

Categories: Child Custody, Parenting