IS SHE MARRIED TO SOMEONE ELSE?
Becoming a parent is probably the most life-changing thing that can happen to you. Sometimes, you may face the possibility of becoming a parent unexpectedly. What should you do? What do you need to know? If a woman is married when the child is conceived or born, Michigan law presumes that the husband is the father. If either parent wants to establish that someone else is the father, they need to take action to “establish paternity” as soon as possible. This is a complicated process (even if you have a DNA test” showing someone else is the father), and you should consult with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible.
WHAT IF SHE IS SINGLE?
Generally speaking, the hospital where the child is born would like the “purported” (presumed) father to sign an ‘Affidavit of Parentage’ acknowledging that you are the father. If you have any doubt, this is a good time to request a DNA test immediately. It’s hard in those moments when a new family is formed, to ask for a test, and that can be uncomfortable. But it is important to ‘know for sure’, because it’s difficult (and expensive) to ‘undo’ this admission of parenthood later! Also, in Michigan the acknowledgement contains language that gives the mother ‘initial custody’. This initial award of ‘custody to the mother’ is only a way of preventing ‘drama’ at the hospital, however, if you are the father, it is important to not only find out for sure that you are the parent, but it is also important to assert those parental rights right away! This is particularly important when there is a possibility that the child will end up in foster care because, unless your rights are established, the process of exercising your rights may take a long time. We have extensive experience in these cases and will make sure that your rights are protected. In fact, even before the baby is born, there are important and strategic things that an unmarried father can do to help to establish their rights to the newborn. The family law attorneys in our Oakland County/Metro Detroit office can help with that. WHAT IF SHE IS SINGLE?
WHAT IF I AM INCARCERATED?
Even if you are incarcerated, the state of Michigan protects your rights as long as you make sure you take action! Whether you are in Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw or Livingston, Counties jail, YOU HAVE RIGHTS! The Judge hearing your custody matter must take into account your rights to the child. This is incredibly hard to do by yourself!. If the mother of the child is not fit to raise the child, the Department of Health and Human Services (Children’s Protective Services) may take action to ‘protect’ the child. Even if you are incarcerated, if your rights to the child have NOT been terminated, you may be able to place the child with a caregiver YOU choose! This cannot happen, however, until and unless you are determined to legally be the father by signing the Affidavit of Parentage, or by the Court entering a Judgment of Paternity. These issues are very complex!
YOU HAVE RIGHTS!
If paternity is at issue, it’s important to have representation from an experienced family law attorney focusing in this kind of case. While you want to make sure you have rights to your child, you also want to make sure you really are the actual father before you take on a lifetime financial and emotional responsibility! Also, if you suspect or know that you are the father and don’t take action to protect yourself, the Court may set a child support in an amount that may be based on incorrect or ‘made up’ income. It’s pretty hard to ‘undo’ this child support obligation when you didn’t even participate in the case at all! Michigan law says that you cannot sit on your rights.
There are so many reasons to make sure you have a skilled and experienced family law attorney when you are about to become a father or if you suspect that you might be the father. You can still enjoy the experience and have a good relationship with the mother of the child. Do yourself a favor- if you don’t, you could be in a really bad position regarding custody AND child support- if you don’t make sure your rights are protected. ‘Un-doing’ the Court order or Judgment is expensive and frustrating. AND, if you don’t make sure you are part of the child’s life quickly, the damage may be serious with regard to bonding with your child and having the right to parent.
YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOUR RIGHTS ARE PROTECTED
If you think you might be a father, or that your partner recently had a baby and you might be the father, DON’T DELAY! Make sure you are the father, AND make sure your custody rights are protected and that you aren’t ordered to pay child support in an amount you can’t afford! Our attorneys have decades of experience protecting parents. You can reach our family law group by calling (248) 479-6200.