What is Paternity & How is it Established?

What is paternity?

Establishing paternity means determining that the biological father of a child that is born out of wedlock is in fact the legal father.

How is paternity established?

If the mother of a child is married when the baby is born, her husband is presumed to be the father, unless a court order or judgment says otherwise. If the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception is presumed to be the father, unless a court order or judgment says otherwise. If the mother is not married at the time of conception or birth, paternity can be established by both parents signing a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage and filing it with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar. The birth certificate is legally insignificant in this regard. 

Paternity can also be established by filing a lawsuit with the Court. Either the mother or the father may file a Court action to establish paternity. If the child is receiving public assistance, the Michigan Family Independence Agency, via the county prosecutor's office, may file to establish paternity on behalf of the mother. Once the Court is involved, it may order DNA tests to establish paternity. An alleged father can admit paternity and be established as a child's legal father without a paternity test.

Why should paternity be established by a court?

Even if there is an Affidavit of Parentage filed with the State of Michigan, the biological father has no automatic right to custody or parenting time, nor is he automatically obligated to pay child support. In Michigan, section 6 of the Acknowledgment of Parentage Act (i.e. MCL 722.1106), provides that after a mother and father sign an acknowledgment of parentage, the mother is presumed to have custody of the minor child unless otherwise determined by the court or otherwise agreed upon by the parties in writing. Only after the Court enters a judgment or an order, does the father have official rights to custody, parenting time. Only after the Court enters a judgment or an order, is the father required to pay child support.

When can a paternity action be filed in the court?

An action under the Michigan Paternity Act may be commenced during the pregnancy of the child's mother or at any time before the child reaches 18 years of age.

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