What is the Prosecutor's role in establishing paternity in Michigan?After a referral from the Macomb County office of the Michigan Department of Human Services ("DHS") [formerly known as the Family Independence Agency, or FIA, and before that the Department of Social Services, or DSS], the Prosecuting Attorney's office interviews the custodial parent and files a complaint in Circuit Court. The non-custodial parent is served with a copy of the complaint, and notice of a hearing date in Circuit Court. The Prosecuting Attorney's office schedules court appearances and arranges for blood draws from the parties. Finally, if paternity is established, the Prosecuting Attorney will prepare the Order for Paternity that is entered in Circuit Court.
Whom do I contact at the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office?Please call a Paternity and Family Support Specialist at (586) 469-7332.
What is Paternity?Paternity means "fatherhood". The term "establishing paternity" means making the biological father of a child born out of wedlock the legal father as well.
Why is it important to establish paternity?The parents and the child have the right to have a parent-child relationship. Establishing paternity gives a child born outside of marriage the same legal rights as a child born to married parents. Other reasons include:
- Identity: It is important to know who we are. Children who know both parents develop a sense of "belonging". Children may also benefit by knowing their family’s biological, cultural, and medical history. Money: The law requires both parents to support their children, even if the pregnancy was unplanned. Children supported by just one parent often do not have enough money for their needs.
- Benefits:+ The child has the right to its parents' benefits (social security, insurance, inheritance, veterans', etc.). Medical: The child may need a complete medical history from the families of both parents, including inherited health problems.
How is legal paternity established?
- If the mother is married when the baby is born, her husband is considered by law to be the father, unless a court says otherwise. If the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception is considered by law to be the father. If the mother is married at the time of conception or birth, but her husband is not the biological father of the child, a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage is not allowed unless a court has already determined that the husband is not the biological father.
- If the mother is not married at the time of conception or birth, paternity can be established by (i) both parents signing a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage that is filed with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar, or (ii) a judge can declare that a man is the legal father after a hearing or default.
How can the father voluntarily acknowledge paternityBoth parents must sign papers acknowledging paternity. The Affidavit of Parentage must be notarized and filed with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar. Before signing the form in the presence of a notary public, the father must provide pictured identification and his social security number (plus other identification, if necessary).
Is there a fee for filing the Affidavit of Parentage?No. However, certified copies of the Affidavit of Parentage are available from the Central Registry for $13.00 (additional copies are $4.00 each).
What if the father refuses to acknowledge paternity?The mother (or the Michigan Department of Human Services, if the child is receiving public assistance such as Aid to Dependent Children) may bring a paternity suit to have the matter resolved in court. The alleged father is entitled to a hearing in Circuit Court to prove whether he is the father. [NOTE: DHS used to be called the Family Independence Agency, or "FIA", and before that was called the Department of Social Services, or "DSS".]
What if the mother is not sure who her child's father is?The mother should call a DHS Support Specialist, toll-free at (866) 540-0008, who will help her to identify and locate (if necessary) the father free of charge. The mother does not have to be on public assistance to seek help from a DHS Support Specialist.
When is a blood test necessary? How is a paternity blood test done?A blood test is needed when the alleged father denies or questions paternity. If blood testing is ordered by the Circuit Court, the mother, child and alleged father will be scheduled for a joint blood drawing in the area. (In Macomb County, most cases do not involve withdrawal of actual blood samples. Rather, swabs are rubbed inside the mouth, which painlessly capture skin cells containing DNA.) The samples are taken from the mother, child and alleged father and are tested at a laboratory. The tests compare many different and complex details of the child's blood with similar details in the mother's and alleged father's blood.
What does paternity blood testing show?The tests can accurately show that a man is not the father of the child, or a percentage of likelihood that he is the father (e.g., 99.48% probability). Because of its accuracy, the blood test result generally settles the issue, so contested paternity trials are rare.
Who pays for the blood tests?The court will decide who pays. In many cases, the alleged father is ordered to pay.
What happens if the mother or father is not 18?In Michigan, the mother's or father's age is irrelevant.
How long after the child is born can paternity be established?Both Michigan and federal laws permit paternity actions to be started anytime before the child reaches the age of 18. But, you should not wait to establish paternity. Your child has the right to expect regular and continued emotional and financial support from both parents. Give your child the best possible chance in life by getting paternity established now!
When can the father's name be put on the birth certificate?If the mother is married, her husband's name will be recorded on the birth certificate. In other circumstances:
- if the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception will be named on the birth certificate, or
- if the mother was not married at the time of conception or birth, the father's name can be placed on the birth certificate if an Affidavit of Parentage has been signed and notarized.
If the parents decide to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, what other steps must be taken?Beside filing the notarized Affidavit of Parentage with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar, the parents should try to agree on issues of family support, parenting time ("visitation") and custody. If the parents cannot agree, then they must get a court order. In Macomb County, child custody and visitation issues are decided after the paternity order is entered. Other counties may handle the timing of custody and visitation orders differently.