Who Gets Custody in Michigan When the Parents Are Not Married to Each Other?

When a child is born to parents who are not and have never been married to each other, things can get complicated, especially for the father. In Michigan, as well as in most states, the single mother is usually awarded sole legal and physical custody of that child.

This means that she gets to decide where the child will live and all aspects of child care, schooling, medical care, extracurricular activities, and more.

While the tradition of the mother getting custody is still common, fathers, as long as they’re legally recognized, have been having more and more success as they fight for increased access to their children. But it’s not an easy path, and they will need an experienced Michigan child custody attorney to help them.

How Can Fathers Get Legally Recognized?

If the father’s name is not on the birth certificate, the first step for him is to file, preferably together with the mother, an “Acknowledgement of Parentage” form. However, if the mother and the father cannot come to an agreement, the father can take two other important steps under the law.

First, he should file a “Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity,” preferably before the child is born, particularly if he is concerned that the child might be released for adoption. The father can also file a paternity action with the Circuit Court after the child is born. To get any required DNA evidence, a court order then requires that the father, the mother, and the child submit to testing.

What If the Mother Is Married When the Child Is Born?

According to the Michigan Paternity Act, the situation is quite different when the mother is married when the child is born. In that case, her husband is viewed as the father of the child even if the child’s biological father is someone else. According to the law, this means that the biological father does not have the right to parenting time or visitation with the child. He also has no obligation to pay child support.

In addition, the biological father is not allowed to challenge the issue. The only way this situation can be addressed is if either the husband or the wife challenges the paternity issue. However, there are some rather complicated exceptions to this legal presumption when the mother is married, and you will want to contact a custody and family law attorney for clarification.

How to Arrange Child Support?

With the establishment of paternity also comes the obligation of child support payments. This works much like it does in divorce cases. Usually, the custodial parent receives payments from the non-custodial parent according to the state’s guidelines. These guidelines take the economic situation of the parents into consideration.

Moreover, the payments also depend on the amount of time each parent spends with the child, the expenses associated with caring for the child, and the income of each parent. The court wants to make sure that the child’s best interest is taken into consideration to ensure a stable and happy home. Your Michigan child support attorney can support you during this process.

Filing for Visitation Or Custody

Once a father is legally recognized, he has the right to file for custody, visitation, or parenting time. Unless the co-parents come to a mutual understanding that the judge accepts, there will be a trial where parenting time and custody will be decided.

Because traditional views of gender roles are still quite common in courts, it can be more challenging for the father to get parenting time or shared custody. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, especially when the father is working with an experienced and skilled Michigan child custody attorney.

Moreover there are additional things a father can do to increase his chances at getting a successful outcome.

The Best Interest of the Child

First of all, the father should always remember that the judges are obligated to keep the child’s best interest in mind as they make their decisions. This includes many factors, including the following:

  • the emotional bonds between the parents and the child as well as their ability to care for their child’s physical and emotional needs, including food, clothing, and medical care
  • their ability to provide their child with guidance and education
  • the stability of the child’s physical environment, and
  • the willingness and ability of the parents to work with each other closely as they bring up their child.

The judges will also look at any history of mental health problems or domestic violence as they make their decisions.

How Can a Father Increase His Chances at More Parenting Time?

The more evidence you can provide to the judge that you would be a good father to your child, the better your chances are that the judge believes that it is in the child’s interest to spend more time with you. This includes demonstrating that you are able and willing to care for and spend time with your child.

It is also important to keep a journal where you document that information so you can present it in court, preferably along with witnesses. They can provide further evidence about the time you have spent with your child. Talk to your family law attorney if you have questions.

In fact, if you have a child outside of marriage and you have never been married to the mother, you need an attorney to help you with getting parenting or visitation rights, at least unless you are listed as the father on the birth certificate.

The first thing you should do as you’re looking for such an attorney is to call or email them to request a free consultation. There you can talk about the steps to take to get as much parenting time with your child as possible.