Children born outside of marriage pose specific legal issues that must be addressed: custody, parenting time, and child support. What rights and obligations do each of the parents have?
Rights of Mothers
It is the Mother's right to establish paternity of the child. Paternity can be established based on a DNA test or by both parents signing and filing an acknowledgment of paternity with the State of Michigan, either at the time of the child's birth or afterward.
Establishing paternity is important for Mothers because it is needed when requesting child support. Once paternity has been established, child support can be calculated based on Michigan's uniform child support guidelines. The Father may or may not be willing to contribute, and sometimes a child support suit is the only way to ensure financial support from him.
Additionally, the Mother retained custody rights over the child, which includes the rights of care and control of the child unless otherwise decided by the court. If the father has established paternity, he may contest for more rights, but he has no guaranteed rights before this action is taken. Though he may gain partial custody, he cannot win primary custody over a mother who has provided for and cared for a child.
Rights of the Father
Fathers who were not married when their child was born must legally establish paternity in order to gain access to their rights. Paternity can be established by both parents signing and filing an acknowledgment of paternity with the State of Michigan, either at the time of the child's birth or afterward.
Paternity can be also be established by filing an action with the Court if no legal father has been established. Either the mother or the father may file a Court action to establish paternity. Once the Court is involved, upon request, the Court can order a DNA test to establish paternity. Once paternity is established, a father may pursue parenting time or other custody rights.
Laurie Schmitt of Schmitt Law, PLLC is a West Michigan family law attorney specializing in collaborative divorce as well as separation, divorce, child custody and support, paternity, and other family law litigation. She is licensed by Michigan State Bar and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, and has extensive advanced training in divorce mediation and collaborative divorce. Contact Laurie at (616) 608-4634 for a confidential consultation.