Labre Law Office | Family Law & Criminal Defense Lawyer | Edwardsburg, MI


Our Paternity Lawyer Team Will Guide and Represent You as You Seek To Establish Accurate Biological Paternity in Coordination with Legal Paternity When Fatherhood and Associated Rights and Responsibilities Have Been Disputed or Are In Question in Michigan or Indiana.

A Paternity Lawyer Can Help You With Various Issues Involving Legal or Biological Fatherhood and Related Rights and Responsibilities

Issues involving paternity carry significant emotional weight and can shape the lives of everyone involved. If a child’s mother is married when the child was conceived or born in Michigan, her spouse is legally assumed to be the child’s parent. This rule applies even if the couple separates but does not finalize a divorce before the child’s birth. Whether you are the presumed father, the mother, or the biological father, questions of legal and biological paternity are crucial issues with many life implications. A paternity lawyer plays a critical role during this profoundly sensitive time, providing guidance, advocacy, and support to help you navigate the legal complexities of paternity issues.

Establishing paternity can bring a sense of identity and closure for a child, often paving the way for a relationship with the father. It can also bring relief to a mother when she knows who will share the responsibility for raising and supporting the child.

Financially, the implications of paternity are significant. Child support payments can significantly affect the economic situation of both parents. Moreover, the outcome of a paternity case can dramatically alter life trajectories, affecting everything from day-to-day living arrangements to long-term opportunities for education and growth.

Reasons You May Need a Paternity Attorney

Some of the common reasons someone would need to work with a paternity lawyer include the following:

  • Establishing Paternity: If paternity is in question or disputed, a lawyer can guide individuals through the legal process of establishing paternity, including arranging genetic testing.
  • Child Support Issues: Once paternity is established, the father has a legal obligation to provide financial support for the child. A paternity lawyer can help ensure this obligation is met and can assist in negotiating and enforcing child support agreements.
  • Custody and Visitation Rights: A paternity lawyer can represent a father seeking to establish custody or visitation rights — or a mother wishing to contest them. Determining paternity is often the first step in this process.
  • Inheritance Rights: If a father passes away, a paternity lawyer can assist in establishing paternity to ensure the child has the right to inherit from the father’s estate.
  • Adoption Proceedings: In cases where a non-biological parent wishes to adopt a child, a paternity lawyer can help navigate the complex legal process — which often involves terminating the biological father’s rights.
  • Legal Documentation: For changes in a child’s birth certificate, social security records, or other official documents, a paternity lawyer can guide parents through these bureaucratic processes.

Your situation may involve one or more of these concerns and other elements. A paternity lawyer can provide invaluable assistance in navigating these often complex and emotionally charged issues for your unique case.

Reasons To Establish Paternity

There are many rights and responsibilities associated with being recognized as the legal father of a child, and this role is profoundly important in the dynamics of many families. In many cases, a mother may wish to establish paternity to ensure the father has legal rights to visitation or shared custody, fostering a relationship between the father and child.

Establishing paternity can have a significant impact on the lives of both a mother and a child, providing legal, financial, and emotional benefits. Establishing paternity legally obligates the father to provide financial support for the child. This can significantly help to cover costs related to raising the child, such as education and healthcare expenses.

The following are some critical motivations for establishing paternity:

  • Child Support: Once paternity is legally established, the father has a legal obligation to provide financial support for the child. This support can help cover costs related to raising the child, such as education, healthcare, and daily living expenses.
  • Custody and Visitation Rights: Establishing paternity is typically the first step for a father who wishes to secure custody or visitation rights. It’s essential for a father who wants to be involved in his child’s life to have these rights legally recognized.
  • Inheritance and Social Security Benefits: If a father passes away, establishing legal paternity can ensure the child is eligible to receive an inheritance from the father’s estate and social security benefits.
  • Health History: Knowledge of a child’s biological father can provide important information about the child’s genetic health history, which can be vital for understanding potential inherited health risks.
  • Emotional Reasons: Knowing their biological father can provide a sense of identity and emotional security for a child. For fathers, it offers an opportunity to be legally recognized as a parent and involved in their child’s life.

Each of these reasons carries significant weight, and establishing paternity can have a profound impact on the lives of all parties involved.

Are You Assumed To Be The Father?

In Michigan, a man is generally assumed to be the father of a child under the following circumstances:

  • Marriage: If a woman is married at the time of the child’s birth, her husband is legally presumed to be the father of the child. This assumption holds even if they are separated, as long as they are not legally divorced.
  • Affidavit of Parentage (AOP): If a man and a woman voluntarily sign an Affidavit of Parentage, this document establishes the man as the legal father of the child — even if they are not married.
  • Divorce or Widowed: If a woman gives birth within 10 months of being widowed or her divorce becoming final (before the 301st day), her late or former husband is presumed to be the father.
  • Acknowledgement of Paternity: A man can be presumed to be the father if he openly treats a child as his own and acknowledges the child as his.

These are general presumptions that can be rebutted or challenged in court, often requiring genetic testing or other substantial evidence to contest the presumed paternity. Your paternity lawyer can guide you regarding the appropriate steps to take in your unique situation.

Differentiating Biological Versus Legal Father

In Michigan, the terms “biological father” and “legal father” have distinct meanings:

  • Biological Father: This man contributed his DNA to a child’s creation. The biological father is a genetic parent, but without legal steps, he might not be recognized as the legal father. If either no one or another man is the legal father of his biological child, it means that he doesn’t have any legal rights or responsibilities even though he has a biological connection to the child. He would not automatically have custody or visitation rights or be required to pay child support.
  • Legal Father: This refers to the man the law recognizes as the child’s father. In Michigan, a man is considered the legal father if he was married to the child’s mother when the child was born or conceived or if he has legally adopted the child. The legal father has all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood, including custody and visitation rights and the responsibility to provide financial support.

The Revocation of Paternity Act (ROPA) also introduced some new terms differentiating potential fathers’ status categories about the establishment of legal paternity in Michigan:

  • Acknowledged Father — A man determined to be the father based on signing an Affidavit of Parentage (AOP).
  • Affiliated Father — A man determined as the father pursuant to a court action.
  • Alleged Father — A man who could have fathered the child.
  • Presumed Father — A man married to the mother at the time of the child’s conception or birth.

How To Establish Paternity

If the parents are not married, but the biological father voluntarily signs an Affidavit of Parentage (AOP), he is assuming legal paternity of the child. This document acknowledges the man as the child’s father and grants him certain parental rights. Discuss with your attorney how an Affidavit of Paternity can affect your unique paternity case.

Genetic testing is vital in determining paternity, especially in disputed cases. This process typically involves collecting DNA samples from the child and the alleged father, usually through a simple cheek swab. These samples are then analyzed in a lab to determine a match.

If a man is assumed to be the father and/or wants to confirm that he is the biological father, he can take the following steps in Michigan:

  1. File a Paternity Case: The first step is to file a paternity case with the local family court. This is typically done in the county where the mother or child resides.
  2. Request a DNA Test: As part of the paternity case, the man can request a DNA test to confirm his biological relationship to the child. This usually involves collecting samples from both the alleged father and the child for testing.
  3. Attend a Hearing: Once the DNA test information is available, a court hearing will be scheduled. Here, the judge will review the DNA test information along with any other relevant evidence to make a determination on paternity.
  4. Seek a Court Order: If the DNA test confirms that the man is the biological father, the court will issue an order of paternity, making him the legal father of the child.

What To Do If You Are Mistakenly or Incorrectly Alleged To Be The Father of a Child

If a man is mistakenly or incorrectly alleged to be the father of a child in Michigan, his options depend on the specifics of the situation:

  1. Presumed Father: If a man is presumed to be the father of a child (for example, if he was married to the mother when the child was born), but believes he is not the biological father, he can challenge the presumption of paternity. It’s crucial to act quickly in these situations in coordination with a paternity lawyer and file a motion with the court to set aside the acknowledgment of parentage or to disestablish paternity. This will likely involve genetic testing to determine biological paternity.
  2. Mother Alleges Man is the Biological Father: If a man is not presumed to be the father, but the mother is suggesting he is the biological father and is seeking to establish paternity, the man has the right to request a DNA test before acknowledging paternity. If he is served with a court order or summons related to establishing paternity, it’s imperative that the man respond by the stated deadline and seek legal representation by a paternity attorney. Ignoring the order could lead to the court declaring him the legal father by default, even without biological proof.

In both scenarios, it’s essential to consult with a knowledgeable paternity lawyer to understand all possible legal ramifications and to navigate the complex legal proceedings.

How Can The Statute of Limitations Affect Paternity Issues?

In Michigan, the statute of limitations plays a significant role in paternity issues:

  1. Presumed Father: If a man is presumed to be the father but believes he is not the biological father, he can challenge this presumption. However, there are time limits to consider. According to Michigan law, a man has three years from the child’s birth or one year from the date of the order establishing parentage to file a motion to set aside an acknowledgment of parentage.
  2. Biological Father Not Established as Legal Father: If a man believes he is the biological father of a child but has not been established as the legal father, he can take steps to establish paternity. In general, a man can establish paternity until the child turns 18. However, it is customarily recommended to establish paternity as soon as possible to benefit both the child and the father.

The above timeframes highlight the importance of promptly addressing paternity issues. Delaying could mean losing the opportunity to challenge or establish paternity, which could profoundly impact the lives of both the child and a man who may be the child’s biological father.

Contact LaBre Law Office to Discuss Your Unique Paternity Case Issues and Goals So We Can Begin Planning Your Strategy

Whether you are the presumed father of a child or you may be the biological father, establishing paternity is a pivotal step in your life that may bring with it profound rights and responsibilities. If you are the mother, you also have pressing concerns about your future, the future of your child, and related finances and family dynamics.

At LaBre Law Office, we deeply understand the relevance of these considerations and the various factors that can come into play. We are here to help you navigate these issues throughout the “Michiana” area, as we are licensed on both sides of the Michigan-Indiana border.

Contact LaBre Law Office today to schedule a consultation. We will discuss your unique concerns and goals regarding paternity and related implications for your life, your finances, and the future of your family.

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Our clients in the Michiana area have confidence when LaBre Law Office handles their legal issues because our general practice law firm has established a record as a trusted member of the community for over four decades, serving our neighbors:

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