Paternity: The many ways to legal fatherhood.

Fatherhood has always been more complicated than the way it is shown in 1950's sitcoms. To understand the laws of paternity in Michigan, you first have to understand the many different types of fathers, from the viewpoint of the state.

Presumed Father – A man married to the child's mother at conception or birth is automatically the child’s legal father.

Acknowledged Father - Someone who has signed an Affidavit of Parentage form and is considered the legal father.

Affiliated Father - Someone who is the child's legal father by court order.

Genetic Father – The actual biological, but not necessarily legal, father.

Alleged Father - Someone who could be the father.

Legal Father - The person who is considered to be the father by the state. This is either the presumed, acknowledged, or affiliated father.

How to Become the Legal Father

Be Married

The simplest way to be the legal father is to be married to the mother.

Sign an Affidavit

If the mother is not married, then the mother and father can together sign an Affidavit of Parentage and the father will become the acknowledged, legal father. Any man can sign the affidavit along with the mother; He does not have to be the genetic father. Most parents sign this form at the hospital when the child is born, even in cases where the parents are married. This process is called an Acknowledgment of Parentage.

DNA Testing

If either the mother or father is receiving state support, they can ask to have a DNA test done through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) to find out if he is the genetic father.


If a child is being placed for adoption, even if the child isn't born yet, a genetic father can claim paternity of the child. If the court finds that he is the child's father the court may terminate his rights to the child and proceed with the adoption, or dismiss the adoption and return the child to the mother, or dismiss the adoption and grant custody of the child to the father.

Revoking Existing Paternity

If someone has already been declared the legal father, replacing that person as the legal father can be a serious challenge. If the mother was not married during the pregnancy, and the child is under three, the father can file a case to be declared the real father. These cases are usually decided by genetic tests. If the mother is married, the father has to prove that he didn't know or have any reason to have known that the mother was married, or that she was not married at the time of conception. During a divorce, the husband can ask for declaration that the child is not his, even if the child is older than three.

Time Matters

In most cases, once the child is 3 years old, it is difficult or impossible to change the legal father for the child. For the genetic father of a child who wants to have some legal rights to see that child, acting quickly matters.