One of the most common things I've run into in the past couple of years are men who are on the birth certificate, but shouldn't be, and men who are not on a birth certificate, but should be. A lot of the time, it gets left 'as is,' because people feel that the consequences aren't worth the time, effort, and money it would take to correct the issue. Here's why you SHOULD establish correct paternity, and why you need to do it ASAP.
Establishing Paternity is the only way to establish legal rights to your child. If something were to happen to the other parent, resulting in death, and the father is not on the birth certificate, the child will go to the next living relative. Sometimes, that means the child will be moved out of state. If another man is listed on the birth certificate, the child will be placed into his custody rather than the biological father. While we hope that such an incident doesn't occur, it's far better to plan ahead and get paternity straightened out long before it becomes an issue.
The same is true for CPS. If there is a legal father listed on a birth certificate and a CPS case is opened against the mother, the child is placed into the custody of the man on the birth certificate. If there is no father listed, the court will assist in establishing paternity, but it will take longer to get custody sorted. It's best to have it over and done with and ready to go should anything happen.
The most common incident I've come across is a father who is listed on the birth certificate, but is not the biological father of the child. In these cases, the client is on the hook for child support of a child that does not belong to them. Often times, the client is not even getting visitation and has no relationship with the child at all.
Thankfully, Michigan enacted the Revocation of Paternity Act in 2012. But, the statute requires that an action be filed within 3 years of the birth, or a really good reason why it wasn't filed on time. And, strangely enough, "I just didn't get around to it" doesn't usually work. Now, that's not to say that fathers who discover later on that their child is not their biological child. Often, the discovery of paternity with an older child will be sufficient to continue with an action to revoke paternity.
If you are on the birth certificate of a child who is not yours, and are currently paying child support for a child you do not have a relationship with, contact an attorney who deals with paternity. They will be able to tell you whether you have a case.
It works the other way, as well. If a man isn't listed on a birth certificate for his child when the parents separate, it will take much longer to get custody, visitation, and support established. If another man is listed as legal father, the legal father would have rights to custody and visitation, where the biological father would not.
Divorce/Separation and Pregnancy
This is another fairly common scenario. Husband and Wife have been separated for over a year prior to completion of the divorce. They begin to see other people. Wife becomes pregnant by her new partner prior to finalization of the divorce. If no actions are taken to establish proper paternity, the Husband will be the presumed father of the child, and given all parental rights to the child. Often times, the issue isn't addressed, because the mother and biological father are living together and still involved.
It gets trickier once mother and biological father break up. If the break-up is messy, the mother could, and often does, deny visitation to the biological father. If the child is older, the issue becomes even harder. The requirements for an alleged (biological) father to get his rights assigned correctly is far steeper the longer he waits. The best thing to do is to establish paternity when mother and biological father are still in agreement, so this never becomes an issue at all.
The conclusion here is simple: Don't wait to establish your rights. Get it done ASAP and avoid any of these issues. Waiting will only make it harder to correct as the child ages. If the concern in delaying the filing is financial, there may be an income-based waiver of filing fees available. Do not let this be the reason you delay filing!
If you are incorrectly omitted or listed on a birth certificate, and have questions about establishing paternity, contact an attorney who practices in this area.