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Legislature Considering Revision of Michigan Child Custody Law

Child custody decisions are inevitably emotional. It could scarcely be otherwise, precisely because relationships with children are involved.

The law seeks to channel the emotion properly through appropriate legal structures. For example, in the case of child custody in Michigan, a state law dating from 1956 provides that a child born to the mother during the marriage is a child of the marriage.

In other words, the law presumes that the husband was the father of the child, even if a DNA test shows that the biological father was another man.

This law is currently in play in a child custody dispute in Grand Haven in which the biological father named Matt Dykema seeks to see his daughter, even though the mother was married to another man at the time the child was born.

The mother and that man were subsequently divorced, and the mother has legal custody of the child. As it stands now, however, the law grants the ex-husband more visitation rights than Dykema, the biological father.

Legislators in Lansing are considering revising the law to allow judges to have more discretion in making custody decisions in cases like this. Last month, the Michigan Senate approved a change in the custody law that would grant greater flexibility to judges in ruling on cases like Dykema's.

Under a series of bills passed by the Senate, the proposed standard for such custody decisions would the best interest of the child. The Michigan House is set to consider the legislation in 2012.

If the House agrees with the Senate, the revised law would have statewide effect, and so would apply to custody disputes in Farmington Hills, Detroit, and throughout Oakland County.

Source: "Biological father seeks help gaining parental rights," WZZM, 12-16-11

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