Non-Biological Parents & Child Custody
In Michigan, the 1956 Paternity Act gives certain rights and responsibilities to biological and non-biological parents of children. Understanding these rights and responsibilities can help you determine what your rights are if you are the legal parent of a child that is not biologically yours, or if you are a biological parent hoping to establish your rights.
The Michigan Paternity Act
In 1956, Governor G. Mennen Williams signed the Michigan Paternity Act into law. The act was passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Michigan Congress, and establishes certain rights and responsibilities to biological parents of children. The goal of this legislation was to establish statutory law that would further expand upon the responsibilities parents have to their children.
Under this law, if a child is born at any point in a marriage, a man would still have all the rights and responsibilities of a father, even if the child was not biologically his. For example, if a woman became pregnant by a man out of wedlock, but then married another man and gave birth to the child after the marriage, her husband would assume all parental rights and responsibilities for the child.
Because of this law, the biological father of the child has no legal rights or responsibilities to the child. Even if the biological father wishes to take responsibility, and even pay child support, he has no legal obligation to do so. However, this also means that the biological father has zero established parental rights. In order to have these rights, the parent would have to go through the courts.
Establishing a Child Out of Wedlock
In order to have parental rights established, a father would need to bring a motion or complaint before a judge in the Michigan Courts. This motion can be filed by either the legally recognized father, the mother, or the alleged biological father.
So why would the mother or legal father ever want to file this kind of motion? In some instances, the biological father does not want to take responsibility, but the mother or father would want to have a child support order in place.
The biological father may wish to establish parental rights so that he may have parenting time with his child. Some of these cases can become emotional roller coasters, and having a steady attorney guiding you through the process is essential.
Michigan Custody Laws
Child custody laws in Michigan are set up to ensure that both parents remain a part of their child’s life, even after a divorce or other circumstances arise. Some states assume that joint custody is in the best interest of the child, and will order it automatically. In Michigan, however, joint custody is not a “standard” and only suggests this as an option among many. In order for joint custody to be ordered, one or both parents must request it.
This can lead to hearings to determine what is in the best interests of the child (link). When a third party is claiming paternity of a child, it can become a very complex process.
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