We frequently receive calls from men who have a girlfriend pregnant with their child, but the man and woman have split up. As an unmarried father, what rights do you have toward your unborn child? 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?
As the father of an unborn child, your rights are limited. Paternity cannot be established until the child is born. Until then, the mother is the only one with rights. However, an unmarried father may be able to protect his unborn child from harm through Child Protective Services.
Unmarried Fathers' Rights
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.
Can You Get Custody of an Unborn Child?
Custody laws in Michigan do not apply to unborn children. So, if you are trying to stop a mother from leaving the state, it is unlikely that you will succeed. 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.
Establishing Paternity in Michigan
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.