Unmarried fathers face several challenges when it comes to securing and maintaining relationships with their children. Some states, such as Michigan, operate on the presumption that the unmarried mother is the custodial parent regardless of the father's signature on the birth certificate. Other laws in the state further limit the rights of unmarried fathers without verification of paternity. Once paternity has been established, unmarried fathers in the state of Michigan enjoy a number of rights that may extend to possession of their children.
The state of Michigan permits unmarried fathers to claim paternity before or after the birth of a child, Traverse City, Michigan family attorney, Jeanne Hannah, says on her website . They may file a "Notice of Intent to Claim Paternity" in the county in which they reside before the birth of a child. Conversely, they may wait until after the baby is born to have a DNA test performed.
However, under Michigan's Paternity Act, an unmarried father has no rights to support or visit his child if the mother was married during the birth of that child. Furthermore, under this law, unmarried fathers may enter into agreements with mothers via a mutually signed affidavit to establish paternity. The affidavit must be filed with the state.
Hannah also advises that unmarried fathers begin making child-support payments during the pregnancy. In the event the mother refuses, she states that these fathers may set up bank accounts and deposit funds into the account accordingly. Once the baby is born, unmarried fathers can request a paternity test through the courts. If paternity has been established, they may provide evidence of the bank account as proof of their willingness to support the child. However, child support does not establish unmarried fathers' rights to visitation or custodial arrangements.
Through adoption or a court order for custody, unmarried fathers may obtain possession of their children and make decisions regarding their welfare. These decisions may relate to their education, medical care or choice of religion. In matters of adoption, the state of Michigan's Adoption Code establishes that a father must be given notice about the potential for his child to be adopted and becomes next in line to receive custody of the child if the mother files for adoption. Additionally, an unmarried father who has demonstrated a history of providing "regular and substantial care," (consistent monetary, physical and emotional support) further establishes his rights as a parent and may apply for any one of Michigan's custodial arrangements. These arrangements include sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody and joint physical custody.