When an unmarried couple has a child, the father may experience some difficulty enjoying the same legal rights as a father in a married couple. As a result, the father may want to consider establishing paternity to identify himself legally as the child’s birth father.

In Michigan, fathers who have proven paternity can increase their chances of a fairer parenting plan, provide for their child as a dependent on insurance and improve the child’s sense of identity. But how does a father prove paternity legally in the state of Michigan?

Signing an affidavit of parentage

If both parents agree on who the father is, they can sign an affidavit of parentage. The affidavit of parentage is most commonly used at the hospital when the father is present for the birth. If a couple does not sign the affidavit at the same time as the birth certificate, they may have to file an application to add the father’s name to the birth certificate later.

Filing a paternity case

A couple who disagree about the child’s parentship can file a paternity case. To begin a paternity case, one parent must file a complaint asking the court to establish paternity. In Michigan, all paternity cases fall under the jurisdiction of the family division of circuit court.

Once a parent files the complaint and the court fees are paid, the court orders blood tests of the mother, the father and the child. If the blood test proves the father’s relationship to the child at the hearing stage, then the court enters an order establishing paternity. Fathers can contest the results of the blood test. A contested result brings the case to trial, where the court will issue an order of paternity or dismiss the case.

If the father files a paternity case because he and the mother are separating, the judge may include a temporary custody order alongside the paternity ruling if the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan. If the parents can agree on a parenting plan, their agreement can become part of the order as well.

Signing a paternity acknowledgment

In Michigan, a father who knows his status as the legal parent can claim paternity with a paternity acknowledgment. Fathers can use these to avoid drawn-out and expensive paternity cases. Signing a paternity acknowledgment during a paternity case can also trigger a paternity order quickly, effectively ending the trial.

If you have questions about establishing paternity in Michigan, seek the help of a family law professional.