How to Establish Paternity and What it Means
When a child is born and/or conceived during a marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father and is automatically considered the legal father of the child pursuant to Michigan law. When a child is born out of wedlock, however, parents are required to take certain actions in order to establish the paternity of the child. Even further steps are required by the acknowledged father to establish or determine custody of the child.
The first and simplest mechanism for establishing the paternity of a child is through the execution of an Affidavit of Parentage. The mother and father publicly acknowledge that the child is the fathers by signing a notarized Affidavit and filing it with the Michigan Department of Community Health, Vital Records Division. There is a form for this available at most hospitals as well as the Probate Court and the County Clerk’s office. If it is signed at the hospital when the child is born and the information is completed for the original birth certificate, the name of the father will be on the birth certificate. If the Affidavit is filed after that time, the birth certificate will NOT be charged automatically to include the father and separate forms must be filed with the Department of Community Health.
It is crucial to understand that the execution and filing of the Affidavit of Parentage provide that the mother has sole legal and physical custody of the child unless and until a court order grants the father custody and/or parenting time. The Affidavit merely gives the father “standing” to file a case in court asking for a change of custody or to have rights to parenting time.
A father who has not established paternthood through Affidavit does not have the rights to be enforced and must proceed through a lawsuit for paternity. Pursuant to MCL 722.714(1), the action must be initiated in the county where either the mother or child lives, unless they both live outside of Michigan, in which case the action may be initiated in the county where the father resides. To initiate a paternity action, the moving party must file a Complaint with the Circuit. If any party to the action disputes the alleged paternity, the court will order blood or DNA testing in an attempt to establish the likelihood of paternity. MCL 722.716(5) states that if a DNA test results in a probability of paternity of 99% or greater, there is a presumption of paternity. Once the presumption is established through DNA testing, any party can petition the court for an Order of Filiation, which will legally declare the paternity of the child, and will also include a provision regarding the custody, parenting time, and support of the child.