When parents bring a child into the world, they immediate form a special relationship with that child and the child with his or her parents. Since children are incapable of caring and providing for themselves for a number of years, parents are responsible for caring for their children and raising them to be able to care for themselves when the time comes. Since this bond and relationship is so important for the child’s wellbeing, Michigan has put laws into place to protect this relationship and also step in when the child needs support from one or both parents. Often times, these issues go through Michigan family law court.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
The traditional family structure has seen a child’s mother being the primary caregiver with the father as the financial provider. While mothers play a very important role in the lives of their children, fathers are equally important to the growth and development of children as well. Fathers are equally capable of being great caregivers for children and are also regarded as effective disciplinarians. Fathers who are involved in their children’s lives have also shown to play an important role in their academic achievement as well as the development of their social and language skills.
Establishing Paternity in Michigan
Establishing paternity in Michigan is a very important step in fathers enforcing their parental rights. For married couples who have a child, establishing paternity is simple – it is assumed, since the couple is married, that the mother’s husband is the child’s legal and biological father, and they do not need to take any additional legal action. However, unmarried parents often have a harder time legally establishing their child’s paternity. In the state of Michigan, there are two ways in which to establish paternity in the eyes of the law – voluntarily through an Affidavit of Parentage or involuntarily through a court order.
Should the child’s father and mother agree the male is the child’s biological father, establishing paternity can be accomplished using a voluntary process. In order to do this, both parents need to sign an “Affidavit of Parentage” in the presence of notary public. It is common for parents to be presented with a sign this form at the hospital or birthing center after they have had the child, and there is no charge for using this process. This Affidavit of Parentage can also be signed later on, but a fee is charged in order to have the father’s name added to child’s birth certificate.
Once the Affidavit of Parentage has been signed by both parents and after the legal ramifications and standards have been explained by the hospital staff, the form is filed with the Department of Community Health, specifically the Central Paternity Registry’s Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics. At this time, the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. It is important to note that a man, even if he is married to another person, can still sign an Affidavit of Parentage. Once this form has been signed and filed, the male becomes the child’s “legal” father.
When one or more parties are not in agreement about the child’s paternity, a court proceeding can help establish paternity through an “order of filiation.” Either the child’s mother or the alleged father can file an action of paternity as well as the Michigan Department of Human Services should the child be receiving any type of public assistance. The individual who files the action for paternity is known as the “petitioner,” and he or she needs to file a “complaint to establish paternity” with the local county court for the area in which the child’s mother and the child are currently living.
During the case, the judge can order DNA testing for the child and the alleged father, especially if the male is questioning paternity or denying the child is his. After reviewing the evidence, the judge decides if the alleged father is or is not the child’s father. If it is determined he is the father, the judge issues an “order of paternity” to make the male the child’s legal father. There are many benefits to establishing paternity for both the child and the parents – there are specific rights for both the child and the father that are allowable when paternity is established.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation
In the state of Michigan, courts that are making or evaluating custody cases must make decisions based on the “best interests of the child” standard. The law in this state begins all Michigan child custody proceedings under the assumption that it is most often in the children’s best interest to maintain a close relationship with both of their parents. Family court judges have the ability to consider any factor relevant to parenting and are also guided by some of the following factors established by Michigan state law:
- The child’s health
- The child’s safety
- The child’s emotional needs
- Both parents’ co-parenting skills
- The child’s educational needs
- Both parents’ morality
Since custody decisions are made in the child’s best interests and are not based on either parent’s wishes, it is possible for the judge to determine that the child’s father is a better provider and caregiver based on this long list of factors. When this is the case, it is likely the judge awards the father “primary custody,” meaning the child is in his care and living at his residence for the majority of the time. In these cases, the father would be known as the primary custodian and the mother would be known as the non-custodial parent.
Father’s Right to Child Support in Michigan
In cases where the father is named primary custodian and the mother is named the non-custodial parent, it is possible for the court to order the mother to pay Michigan child support. Child support is a financial payment made from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to help support children by providing funds for their needs including food, shelter, and clothing as well as medical and educational needs. Fathers who are receiving child support also have access to child support enforcement services through the Department of Human Services’ Office of Child Support (OCS).
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
Child custody and support cases are often overwhelming, and fathers may not be well-versed in their parental rights. For those fathers who are facing these types of legal issues, a lawyer who specializes in father’s rights and family law for the state of Michigan can be an invaluable resource. These professionals can help fully explain a father’s legal parental rights while also making sure the court upholds these rights during their client’s case. This often helps ensure that fathers have a continued and consistent relationship with their child and have a fair case regarding child support.
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