putative fatherPaternity -fatherhood- is established voluntarily or involuntarily in Michigan. The confusing thing is that the birth certificate of a child has nothing to do with paternity in the legal sense.

Within a marriage, paternity is presumed to be the husband; but that is a rebuttable presumption. Outside of marriage, a putative father can execute what is known as an “affidavit of parentage”. If paternity is disputed, or no man is willing to sign an affidavit of parentage, then paternity must be established in a custody proceeding in the family court where the judge issues an order of filiation [or parentage].  Either the mother, the putative father, or any other man can file a complaint for paternity in the family court. The person that files the complaint is the “petitioner” and the action must be filed in the county where the mother resides.

When paternity is challenged or the subject of custody proceedings, DNA tests can be used under Michigan’s new paternity law to conclusively establish paternity. Once established, the usual obligations of child support, health insurance and confinement costs [the hospital costs associated with the birth of the child] become the responsibility of the newly-discovered father.

Here is a link to the Affidavit of Parentage form currently issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health. It contains simple instructions that should be followed to the letter.

In 2012, the Michigan legislature passed a law that provides greater rights to putative fathers; this law is known as the Revocation of Parentage Act. To be sure, this Act is confusing. If a woman is married at the time of conception, her husband is referred to as the “alleged father” and the man claiming to be the father -the person formerly referred to as the “putative father” is known as the “alleged father” under this Act; if a man takes the affirmative step of executing an affidavit of parentage, he is the “acknowledged father” under the Act. Complicated.

The alleged father must file an action under the new Act within 3-years of the child’s birth, or within 1-year from the entry of an order of filiation, whichever is later.  A court, if requested, may extend the time for filing an action, but do not count on the good graces of a family court as an extension is not a given.

When an alleged father [or the mother] seeks to set aside an acknowledgment of parentage establishing another man as the father of a child, an affidavit is required. This affidavit must swear to the fact that there has been a mistake of fact, some newly discovered evidence that was not known at the time of the acknowledgment of parentage, fraud or a misrepresentation occurred, or the acknowledgment was executed under duress or coercion.

Upon consideration of this required affidavit by a family court judge, if deemed sufficient, then DNA testing is required. Then the truth of paternity becomes known, conclusively. The best part of the new Act is that it harbors well-developed technology to get to the truth. The true identity of a child’s father is something everyone involved needs to know.

Caveat: regardless of the father’s identity, the family court still has the power to determine the best interests of that child relative to a custody determination. Proving paternity is just the first step; a step that has been made more fair under the new Act. To be a real father, however, a man must prove himself to the court and that is something that a DNA test cannot do.

Clarkston Legal