Establishing Paternity of Child Born During Marriage

If your child was born during your marriage, but was not fathered by your husband, you may wonder how to resolve the issue of your child’s paternity. If you are the biological father of a child born while the mother was married to another man, you may wonder how to establish your paternity. These are difficult situations, and we want to help you resolve them.

When a child is born, the mother and father’s names are placed on the birth certificate. If a couple is married, the father’s name is the husband’s name. For many years, the husband was presumed to be the legal father, regardless of whether he was the biological father or not. Michigan’s divorce statute states that the “legitimacy of all children begotten before the commencement of any action under this act shall be presumed until the contrary be shown.” This means that any children born to a married couple are presumed to be legitimate children of that married couple.

Other laws contain the presumption that children born during marriage are the legitimate children of the married couple. A child born during a marriage will be considered an heir to both parties of the marriage. The Vital Records Act states that the name of the husband at the time the child was conceived, or at the time the child is born is registered as the child’s father on the birth record. The presumption even reaches out to include the child conceived by assisted reproductive technology, if the husband has consented to its use.

The legal presumption is that a husband is the father of the child conceived during a marriage. This presumption may be an issue if the husband and wife divorce, and the husband does not believe he is the father of the child. This father will be presumed to be the legitimate father and therefore be responsible for child support. If he chooses, he may contest his paternity.

There are situations where a father is not the biological father of a child, but wishes to continue his relationship with that child after a divorce. Michigan case law provides for the equitable parent doctrine. This means that the father may continue his relationship with the child after divorce if:

  • The husband and the child acknowledge a father / child relationship, or the mother of the child has cooperated in the development of such a relationship prior to filing the divorce complaint;
  • The husband wants to have the rights afforded to a parent; and
  • The husband wishes to take on the responsibility of paying child support.

If a man is a biological father to a child born during the mother’s marriage to another man, that other man is considered the child’s father.

When a couple divorces, unless there has been an issue of contested paternity, the husband continues to be presumed as the father of the child. Until the paternity is contested by those legally involved [the mother and the husband/legal father], the child is considered a product of the marital union.

An acknowledgement of paternity based on an affidavit of parentage is one method to securing paternal rights as a biological father. However, if there is a mistake and the man signing the affidavit is not, in fact, the biological father, there is little the actual biological father can do. A biological father does not have standing in this situation. He cannot ask for a revocation of an affidavit of parenting because he did not sign it. The other man is the child’s legal father, and a child may have only one legal father at a time. There are major issues to be resolved, particularly if the man listed as the father objects. However, if the child’s mother is interested in contesting the established paternity, she may initiate proceedings in order to establish her child’s paternity.

If you wish to be named as your child’s biological father, contact Flint, MI family law attorney Patrick Chatterton. Our experienced attorney will be able to guide you during this difficult time and help you establish your paternity.

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