Obtaining legal rights for an unmarried father in Michigan is not as simple as being on the birth certificate. An unwed father must prove to a Judge he is the father before he can be given any rights to custody or parenting time.
When a child is born out of wedlock (the parties are not married at the time of conception or at the time of birth), a Court must decide who the father is. Often, the father is not present at the birth of the child. The mother can select any name she chooses to put on the birth certificate. While the birth certificate is an official record that is kept with the state, it is not the official determination of who the legal father is. When the father is at the hospital at the time of birth, the father is often asked to sign an affidavit of parentage. This affidavit provides that the person who signs the document is the father of the child and that the MOTHER IS PRESUMED TO HAVE CUSTODY OF THE CHILD, until there is a different judicial determination. While this document can be used to support a basis for the filing of a Court action to establish legal fatherhood, it is not a determination of the legal father by the Court, and provides no rights to the father for custody or visitation.
If a father wishes to be the “legal father,” he must file an original action with the Court and request to be determined the father and establish custody, parenting time and support. This is difficult to do without an attorney. When the mother is receiving any government assistance for the child, the State of Michigan will usually file an action for child support against the father to establish child support only. The father can not request custody or parenting time in this action and must file a separate motion or case to be considered for custody or parenting time. It is not unusual for a father to be paying support, yet have no legal rights to see his child.
If an unwed father wishes to obtain rights to have contact with his child, it is essential that he confer with an attorney immediately. Since the mother is presumed to have custody, it takes time and effort to convince the Court to have the father involved and to move into parenting time and a custodial relationship with the child. The longer the father waits, the harder it is to have a relationship with his child.