While Michigan treats fathers more fairly than many other states, there are still times when you can feel as if you are excluded from processes and that decisions sometimes favor the mother.
If you are a father in Michigan going through divorce proceedings where children are involved, you should seek legal advice from a law firm with experience in family law matters. Proper legal representation does not only ensure that your rights and interests are protected but that the best interests of the children are focused on too.
Attorneys Protecting Fathers’ Rights During Divorce
The idea of attorneys protecting fathers’ rights during divorce and child custody hearings is not a new one. Michigan family law has no-fault divorce laws and in most cases, the court treats both parties equally. The court’s primary concern is that the best interests of the child are ensured, especially when it comes to custody, visitation, and child support orders.
Experienced Michigan Fathers’ Rights Lawyers
When you seek legal representation in your family law case, you want someone with experience in this area of law, someone with the education and training in these practice areas to give you the best possible outcome.
Michigan courts prefer that parents work together and find an amicable solution regarding custody. If that solution is not found, then the court will make a decision based on a number of factors.
Michigan has two types of child custody; legal and physical. Legal custody means that the court has recognized your right to be involved in important decisions regarding your child’s life such as medical care, education, etc. Physical custody is where the child resides with you on a full-time basis.
Where there are no elements of the ‘best interests of the child’ list which concern the judge, they may decide to award joint custody. If they do decide to award sole physical custody to one parent, for example, if the non-custodial parent lives an unreasonable distance from the child’s school, then the judge will also look at access or parenting time.
Creative Visitation Solutions
Our law offices actively pursue innovative access parenting time solutions to suit all parties. While the best interests of the child remain center stage, part of those best interests include spending quality time with both parents.
Finding these creative solutions depends on a number of elements: some level of cooperation between the parents, the father not living far away or out of state, what the child wants, demands of the father’s employment, and proximity to the child’s school so their education is not disrupted.
We will work closely with you to identify sufficient parenting time opportunities that fall outside the traditional model. These can include involvement in your child’s extra-curricular activities, weeknight stays, and even in some cases, co-parenting activities. Once we have formulated a plan, we can present it to the court for their approval.
When considering making a child support order, Michigan courts look at both parents’ income equally. A child must be supported until the age of 18 (or 19.5 if they are still in high school).
Generally speaking, the non-custodial parent will be mandated to pay around 15-25% of their income in child support. Attorneys normally use the online child support calculator to give clients an idea of how much they are required to
Michigan law allows for two routes to establishing paternity; voluntary or involuntary. Where both parents agree that the father is the biological father, then that is voluntary paternity.
To establish that in a legal framework, they must sign what is known as an “Affidavit of Parentage” with a notary. In many cases, this affidavit is signed at the hospital after the child’s birth and is free in that setting. If signed later, then a fee is charged. Once this is signed, it is filed with the Central Paternity Registry, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics at the Department of Community Health. Marriage is not a prerequisite for this process.
If there is a dispute over paternity, then it becomes a matter for the courts. Either the father or mother can file the initial application to prove – or disprove – paternity. If the child is receiving any form of public assistance, then the Michigan Department of Human Services also has a right to file suit on behalf of the State of Michigan.
When disputed, paternity is usually established by means of a genetic or DNA test. If the male is proven to be the father, they usually pay the costs of the test. Once paternity is established, the court will also issue an order of paternity.
Unmarried Fathers Have Rights, Too
While issues surrounding unmarried fathers can be complicated at times, if paternity is established, some rights are established though the father may have to go through several legal processes.
How to Prove You Are the Child’s Father
If the mother is disputing that you are the father, you can file an application with the courts to take a test proving or disproving your paternity.
How to File a Michigan Paternity Action
If you are looking to file a paternity suit, then there is a set process to follow. If the mother resides in Michigan, file the suit in the family division of the circuit court in the county where she is resident. If she is not a resident in Michigan, then file the suit in the county where you reside. Your suit must contain a specific claim such as seeking custody or visitation rights.
Filing for Custody or Parenting Time
The essential part of the legal process for an unmarried father is establishing paternity. Once that has been established, and where there is no mutual agreement on access to the child, then the unmarried father can pursue custody or visitation rights through the court.
What are Divorced Dads’ Rights in Michigan?
If the divorced father has established paternity, then they have rights of access and parenting time. They may also be granted physical custody (sole or joint) and legal custody. Whether any of these are granted, and at what level, will depend on the court’s decision after considering the best interest of the child factors.
As long as paternity is established, either by mutual agreement or by court-mandated test, and as long as an Affidavit of Parentage has been lodged with the Department of Community Health, then the father can also establish any access rights prior to birth.
However, there may be some limitations before the baby is born. While it shows good intent if the father is contributing to any relevant medical costs, he is not entitled to make decisions regarding treatment or have access to medical records unless the mother consents.
Once the baby is born, and where no court order has already been made, an unmarried father may apply for custody or parenting time if paternity has been established. If you are unsure of your rights, seek legal advice from your Michigan family law attorney.
Single Father’s Rights
As long as paternity has been proven, then a single father has the right to apply for access or custody if no mutual agreement is in place.
Divorced Father’s Rights
Michigan law has a starting point of presuming that it is in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents in the event of a divorce. Where agreement on post-divorce factors such as custody and access is not reached mutually, the court will make decisions based on their list of child’s best interest elements.
Some Final Thoughts
If you found Michigan Premier Law in a lawyers’ directory, you will see that our practice has listings covering several areas including personal injury and criminal defense. However, we specialize in family law and have vast experience in advising and representing clients at mediation and in the courts.
Our law office serves clients across the Detroit, Michigan area in all aspects of family law, including child support, divorce child custody, property division, and parenting time. Attorney profiles include details of qualifications and experience, helping you to make the best possible choice.
If you are a father, whether unmarried, divorced, or planning to divorce, you can book a free initial appointment with our law firm on (248) 688-0045.