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Establishing paternity under Michigan law

Many television programs portray paternity disputes as a kind of game, but Michigan residents who have been in the middle of one of these disagreements know that they are serious. Paternity of a child is tied up with notions of personal and family identity, along with many other emotional issues. However, there are also some very concrete legal issues tied to paternity under Michigan law.

Under Michigan law, a man who was married to a woman when she was pregnant is presumed to be the father of her child unless the court determines otherwise. For women who were not married when they became pregnant, the legal picture is somewhat more complicated. For these women's children, paternity must be established either by a judge voluntary agreement of the father.

Unwed parents can agree to paternity by filing something called an Affidavit of Paternity. These must be signed by both parents and notarized. By signing one of these forms, the parents generally give up their rights to dispute paternity through a DNA or blood test or other means.

When a man refuses to acknowledge that he is the father of the child, either the mother or the Michigan Department of Human Services may file suit against the man. When the mother isn't sure who the father may be, the department may help her investigate.

The reason the state gets involved in such a highly personal matter boils down to money. Under Michigan law, both parents are legally required to provide for the expenses that come with raising a child. When parents don't live with their children, this means they must make regular child support payments. When they fail to make these payments, the custodial parent may need public assistance to raise the child, and that money comes from the state. Thus, the state has a financial interest in establishing parentage of the child and making sure noncustodial parents make their payments.

Michigan family law attorneys can help parents with many aspects of a paternity dispute. They can also help parents to modify child support payments when necessary.

Source: Michigan.gov, "What Every Parent Should Know About Establishing Paternity," accessed Aug. 14, 2014

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