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Rights of Fathers of an Unborn Child

We frequently receive calls from men who have a girlfriend pregnant with their child, but the man and woman have split up.  As a father, what rights do you have in such a situation?  Can you file anything with the court before the child is born?  Can you stop the mother from leaving the state while she is pregnant with your child?

The first step an unwed father should take is to establish paternity. Paternity simply proves that you are the father of the child but does not automatically give you rights regarding custody and visitation. You can obtain a court order for those rights by filing a Complaint for Paternity with your local circuit court.  Establishing paternity before your child is born is rare.  Michigan does allow you to file a complaint with the court prior to the child being born; however, the circumstances where this is appropriate are uncommon.

If you are trying to stop a mother from leaving the state, it is unlikely you will succeed.  Custody laws in Michigan do not apply to unborn children.  However, if you are concerned about the health and safety of your unborn child for reasons of drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence issues, it is important to contact Child Protective Services or the police for help. Although you have limited rights while your child is unborn, you may be successful in protecting your unborn child once the state investigates your allegations.

Once your child is born, the easiest way to establish paternity is by getting your name on the birth certificate.  You can sign an Affidavit of Parentage, the legal document in Michigan to establish paternity. This affidavit is available at birth and it is easiest to complete at that time.  If you are attempting to establish paternity after the fact because you and the mother are not getting along, then a Complaint for Paternity is your best option. 

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