Paternity is the legal determination that a man is the father of a child, also known as establishing filiation. In Michigan, when a married woman is pregnant and gives birth, her husband is presumed to be the legal father of her child. If she is divorced or widowed when she gives birth, but was married within the previous ten months, her ex-husband or late husband may be presumed to be the baby’s legal father.
If a woman was not married during her pregnancy or when she gives birth, the State of Michigan does not make any presumptions about the child’s paternity. While every child has a biological father, not every child has a father who is legally recognized as such.
In those situations, the mother, biological father, and in some cases, a third party, can take steps to establish the child’s paternity. At Blume Law Group, we help families legally establish paternity so that parents and children can experience all of the benefits of that relationship.
Establishing paternity ensures that a child has access to all of the benefits that a legal relationship with a father involves. That includes parenting time and child support, but also any government benefits like Social Security and veterans’ benefits. If a biological father were to die without establishing paternity, his child would not automatically inherit from his estate under law. So, first and foremost, establishing paternity protects the child.
Establishing paternity is good for both parents as well. When paternity is established, the mother can pursue child support from the father and can get an order from the court establishing a predictable parenting time schedule so that she can plan her daily schedule. By establishing his paternity, the father gets to request a custody and parenting time order with his child, which prohibits the mother from attempting to cut the father out of the child’s life. Last but not least, officially recognizing the relationship between father and child can make that relationship stronger, which may be the most important reason of all.
There are a few ways to establish a child’s paternity in Michigan. The first, and simplest, is for both parents to sign an Affidavit of Parentage. This is a legal document that identifies the child and the parents. Both parents provide some personal information and sign under penalty of perjury before a notary public to establish that the man is the child’s legal father. After being completed, the affidavit must be filed with the State of Michigan’s Central Paternity Registry.
If the child’s mother was married to a man who is not the biological father at the time of the child’s conception or birth, she will need to get a court order saying her husband or ex-husband is not the legal father before filling out an Affidavit of Parentage.
A signed and filed Affidavit of Parentage does not automatically entitle the legal father to custody or parenting time, or the child to support. The parents will need to take separate legal steps, but establishing paternity opens the door for them to do so.
Of course, there are also situations in which either the mother or biological father is not willing or available to sign an Affidavit of Parentage at the time of birth. In a case like that, a parent who wants to later establish paternity will likely need to file a legal action and get a court order (Order of Filiation) establishing paternity. DNA testing may be ordered to confirm the identity of the father. The Order of Filiation may also establish custody, parenting time, and child support.
If the mother is receiving public assistance for the child, which includes state health insurance, the Michigan Department of Human Services may get involved and file a court case on behalf of the mother and child to establish paternity. This isn’t just to help the mother and child out—it’s to make sure the father can be required to pay child support and help support his family.
Paternity is often established shortly after a child’s birth, but either parent or the State of Michigan can seek to establish paternity at any time up until the child’s 18th birthday. Once the child turns 18, they have until their 19th birthday to file a court action seeking to establish paternity.
Attorney Sean Blume has spent nearly his entire legal career advocating for the interests of children. Helping families legally establish paternity is a part of that work.
As a parent, helping your child is your first priority. At Blume Law Group, helping you is ours. We represent parents in Michigan paternity matters in Macomb, Oakland, Wayne, and St. Clair counties. We invite you to contact our office to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to working with you.