Father’s rights: Establishing paternity in the state of Michigan

Establishing paternity allows unwed fathers to enact their parental rights, and allows children to claim to benefits and support from both parents.

When a man's wife has a child in the state of Michigan, he is considered the child's father under the law. As such, he is allowed certain parental rights. There is no such presumption, however, for unwed fathers. In order to enact their parental rights, men who are not married to the mothers of their children must take steps to establish paternity.

Why is it important to establish paternity?

Establishing paternity can be important to parents, as well as children. Until a man has legally established himself as a child's father, he does not have any rights to his child. As such, he cannot seek child custody, parenting time or visitation. Additionally, men who have not established paternity do not have the right to participate in important decisions regarding their children. This means that they would have no input on decisions, including their children's medical treatment or schooling.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, children are entitled to certain benefits from their mothers, as well as their fathers. This could include Social Security insurance benefits, health insurance and veterans' benefits. When paternity has not been established, a child does not have a claim to these types of benefits through his or her father.

Voluntary paternity acknowledgements

When there is no contest regarding the identity of a child's father, parents often opt to sign an affidavit of parentage form. This is the easiest way for a father to establish paternity, according to the Michigan Courts. Parents may sign this form at the hospital following their child's birth, at the local DHS office, at a county Registrar's Office or by completing the form on the DHS website. When filing this form, both parents' signatures must be notarized and they must have valid photo identification.

Court orders to establish paternity

Another way for unmarried fathers to establish paternity is through a court order. This method is typically used in cases when there is a dispute over the identity of a child's father. Although mothers, DHS or the Office of Child Support often initiate such cases, fathers may also start them.

Before a court order to establish paternity can be issued, the court must hold hearings to determine if a man indeed a child's father. With few exceptions, blood tests are ordered so that DNA testing can be performed. If such testing shows that a man is the father, then the judge enters an order of filiation. After this, orders may also be issued for custody, visitation and child support.

Seeking legal counsel

Establishing paternity can be complicated for unwed fathers in the state of Michigan, particularly when it is contested. As such, men who are seeking to establish paternity may find it of benefit to consult with a legal representative. An attorney may explain their rights and options, as well as guide them through the process.

Keywords: divorce, paternity, father, rights