Myths and urban legends dominate discussions about parental rights. Many men in Michigan have heard half-truths and myths that prevent them from being the involved fathers they would like to be. The stories people share can discourage men from going to court to establish or make use of their parental rights.
Unmarried men, in particular, often have a difficult time navigating the legal system and understanding their rights. They may believe that the child’s mother automatically has sole custody and that their rights depend on her cooperation. However, Michigan law extends the same essential parental rights to all adults who have a legal or biological relationship with a child. An unmarried father has the same basic rights in principle that the mother of the child has. He simply has to take an extra step to make use of those rights in many cases.
Men must establish paternity to ask for custody
Paternity is the state’s legal acknowledgment of a man’s role in a child’s life. Married fathers in Michigan benefit from a presumption of paternity. Hospitals will include a woman’s husband on the birth certificate automatically when she gives birth during marriage.
Unmarried fathers generally need the mother to acknowledge them to have their names added to the birth certificate of a child. In some cases, people will arrange to acknowledge the father right at the hospital by filling out an Affidavit of Parentage. There is no additional cost to take this step at the hospital.
Other times, a father may cooperate with the mother later during a child’s youth to add his name to the birth certificate. Establishing paternity through the paperwork does not incur a fee, but updating the birth certificate does.
In scenarios where the mother refuses to acknowledge the father, he can ask the Michigan family courts for help. Genetic testing can affirm a man’s paternity with a very small possible margin of error for such testing. Once a man has affirmed his paternity through cooperation with the mother or genetic tests, he can then seek parenting time and say in the major decisions related to a child’s upbringing.
Understanding how the state handles parenting matters between those who have not married may benefit men who want to take an active role in the lives of their children. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.