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Paternity means "fatherhood." The term "establishing paternity" means making the biological father of a child born out of wedlock the legal father as well.
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After a referral from the Eaton County office of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 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 DNA testing or buccal swabs from the parties. Finally, if paternity is established, the Prosecuting Attorney will prepare the Order for Paternity that is entered in the Circuit Court's Family Division.
Our Paternity and Child Support Specialists, please call at 517-543-4890, or 517-543-4897.
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:
Paternity is established in the following ways:
Note: A child can have only one legal 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 to make the non-husband the child's legal father unless a court has already determined in a court order that the husband is not the biological father.
In many cases, when the custodial parent or a child's legal guardian receives state assistance for the child (e.g, medicaid, food stamps, etc.), the Department of Human Services will send a referral to us to establish paternity and a support order, even if the custodial parent has not requested child support. The support money is used to reimburse the state for the coverage and services it spends on the child. The custodial parent must fill out and submit the IV-D Child Support Services Application/Referral form (PDF). It can be submitted by mail to:Michigan Office of Child SupportCentral Functions UnitP.O. Box 30744Lansing, MI 48909
You can also use the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) MiChildSupport website portal to apply for child support. In some cases, the custodial parent can call the DHHS Office of Child Support at 866-540-0008 and talk to a Support Specialist. Once your application has been properly filed, your case will then be referred to the Prosecutor's Office's Family Support Division and a case will be opened. The Eaton County Prosecuting Attorney's Child Support and Paternity Specialists can be reached at 517-543-4890, or 517-543-4897.
After your case is opened, you will be mailed an appointment letter. You will likely be asked to bring in some important documents (pay stubs, driver's license, child's birth certificate) on your appointment day. The information will be used to file a lawsuit against the absent parent so it is very important that all requested documents are brought to this initial meeting. A complaint will be prepared and your case will be filed with the court.
Once the support order case is filed, our office may schedule an appointment with the absent parent in our office. The court papers will be given to the non-custodial parent and case issues will be explained. A final Order, resolving the case by consent, might be signed at that time. If the absent parent lives far away or out of state, we will send them notice of the case by certified mail. They may then contact us by telephone or mail. At times, it is necessary to arrange for papers to be served by an outside agency if the absent parent does not respond.
Once the papers are served on the absent parent, the absent parent has a little less than a month to respond in writing to the facts alleged in the Complaint. If not, we will ask the Judge to enter a "default order" against the parent to establish paternity and/or child support. Payments will then be collected and obligations enforced by the Friend of the Court (FOC).
Both parents must sign papers acknowledging paternity. The Affidavit of Parentage (PDF) must be notarized and filed with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Central Registry Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics. 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).
Yes. The completed Affidavit of Parentage form (PDF) can be mailed to:Central Paternity RegistryDivision of Vital Records and Health StatisticsMichigan Department of Health and Human ServicesP.O. Box 30691Lansing, MI 48909Phone: 517-335-8676
No. However, certified copies of the Affidavit of Parentage (PDF) are available from the Central Registry for $34 (additional copies are $16 each).
The mother (or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, if the child is receiving public assistance such as Medicaid, Women, Infant, and Children, etc.) 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. If the mother fails to cooperate with this process (including the filing of a paternity Complaint in court, attending court hearings, participating in DNA sampling with her child) her public assistance benefits could be affected.
Michigan has created a statutory process through the Revocation of Paternity Act (ROPA) (PDF) for a legal father to challenge his legal paternity. The process depends on how he was established as the legal father.
The ROPA laws should be carefully reviewed and followed to ensure that time lines and steps in the process are followed. Michigan Legal Help has some useful information, answering a variety of questions in this process.
The mother should call a Office of Child 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 Support Specialist.
A DNA test is needed when the alleged father denies or questions paternity. In Eaton County, DNA testing uses a buccal swab, a painless Q-Tip®-like swab that is rubbed inside the mouth to painlessly capture skin cells containing DNA. The samples are taken from the mother, child and alleged father and are tested at a DCC DNA Diagnostic Center. 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.
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, 99.99% probability). If the results show that the alleged father is not the biological father, the paternity case is dismissed. Because of its accuracy, the DNA test result generally settles the issue, so contested paternity trials are rare.
The court will decide who pays. In many case, the alleged father is ordered to pay when he is proven to be the biological father.
Yes. If a private attorney files a paternity case, they may arrange for DNA testing but Michigan law requires that the analysis occur through a certified lab. "At-home" DNA kits, like those that can be purchased at a pharmacy, are not admissible in court.
In Michigan, the mother's or father's age is irrelevant.
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!
If the mother is married, her husband's name will be recorded on the birth certificate. In other circumstances:
Birth certificates are not automatically changed when an Affidavit of Parentage is filed, unless the change is made at the birth hospital before the birth has been registered. Changes to registered birth records can be requested based upon a properly completed Affidavit of Parentage, but the birth record correction must be requested on an Application to Correct a Certificate of Birth (PDF). A birth certificate can be changed to reflect the father listed on this Affidavit if no other man is recorded on the birth certificate as the child's father. Should a conflict exist, a court determination of paternity may become necessary.
Beside filing the notarized Affidavit of Parentage with the Michigan Department of Health Services Central Paternity Registry Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, the parents should try to agree on issues of child support, parenting time ("visitation") and custody. If the parents cannot agree, then they must get a court order.
In Eaton County, child custody and visitation issues are decided before the paternity order is entered. Other counties may handle the timing of custody and visitation orders differently. Check with your county's Prosecuting Attorney!
The following resources contain paternity information: