The information provided in the Self-Help Center is not legal advice. The laws of Michigan do not allow the employees of the court or the judge to give you legal advice. You should consult with an attorney concerning legal issues, but you do not need an attorney to file a paternity case. If you proceed with a paternity case without an attorney, you are acting as your own attorney.
The following is a brief description of a paternity case. There is no specific information available in this Self-Help Center to aid you with the entire legal process in a paternity case. Because of the importance of the outcome, it may be advisable to contact an attorney.
Paternity is the legal identification of a child's natural father when the parents are not married. Once paternity is established, the child has the same right to financial support as a child born to married parents. The paternity of a child can be established by voluntary acknowledgment or through a court hearing. See information about paternity from the Department of Human Services.
How Paternity is Established
The simplest way to establish paternity is for both parents to sign an Affidavit of Parentage form. This service is available free of charge in the hospital when the child is born, or you can telephone the support specialist at your county Department of Human Services for free help. After the Affidavit of Parentage form is completed it must be recorded with the Department of Community Health. Follow the instructions provided with the form. By signing the form, the paternity of the child is legally established.
If a father decides to sign a paternity acknowledgment, a family support order will be signed by the judge instead of a paternity order. This is done because a court case cannot be processed under the Paternity Act if the father signs a paternity acknowledgment. For more information about the law, see the Paternity Act. If the father acknowledges paternity, a family support order is entered. You may want to view the Family Support Act and see details about filing a family support case instead.
Another way paternity is established is through a paternity case. The county Department of Human Services (DHS) can ask the prosecutor to file a complaint with the court to obtain an order establishing paternity if the mother: 1) resides in that county; 2) cannot afford an attorney; 3) is eligible for child support services (IV-D); or 4) is receiving public assistance. If the mother is not receiving public assistance, she should still contact the county DHS in the county where she lives for help in establishing paternity.
Filing a Paternity Case Generally
If you are starting the paternity action, you are called the plaintiff and the other parent is the defendant. Unless the prosecutor files the complaint, the plaintiff must file a complaint asking the court to establish paternity and grant custody, support, and parenting time.
The family division of circuit court handles all paternity cases in Michigan. If you want to file a paternity case, it must be filed in the county where the mother lives. If the mother and child live outside of the state of Michigan, the case must be filed in the county where the alleged father lives or is found.
Processing Paternity Cases Generally
Most paternity cases are processed in the same manner. A complaint must be filed, fees must be paid, a summons must be issued, the parties must be served notice of the complaint, hearings must be scheduled and noticed, blood tests must be ordered and taken, answers must be given, and hearings must be attended. The end result of the case will be entry of an order. General information about court forms, fees, service, hearings, finding legal information, and how the courts operate can be found in this Self-Help Center by clicking on any of the topics in the horizontal bar at the top of this page. Specific information about processing a paternity case is not provided, but there are more details about general case processing.
Certain procedures must be followed to get a court order for paternity. These procedures are stated in the Michigan Compiled Laws and Michigan Court Rules, but keep in mind that courts may have local practices in addition to these laws and court rules. You should check with your attorney or the prosecuting attorney in the county where the mother lives to find out what types of services they provide with regard to processing your case.
At the paternity hearing the court will seek to determine paternity of the child. The court may require the mother, the alleged father, and the child to have a blood test taken. If at any time during this process the alleged father admits to being the father of the child, an order establishing paternity can be entered by the court. If the alleged father wants to contest the results of the blood test, a trial will be held. At the end of the trial, the court will either enter a paternity order or dismiss the paternity claim.
If paternity is established, an order of filiation (paternity) will be entered. The judge will most likely order the payment of child support, medical expenses for the birth of the child (also called confinement expenses), blood test costs (if taken to prove paternity), and other costs, and may also order that health care coverage be provided. You may want to view the Michigan Child Support Formula Manual. You may also want to view the Model Friend of the Court Handbook for some common child support questions and answers. See details about custody and parenting time.
If paternity is established and the parents are in agreement about custody and/or parenting time, the judge will most likely include that agreement in the paternity order. If the parents are not in agreement about custody and/or parenting time, the judge will order temporary custody and parenting time until a hearing on the dispute (or other resolution). The friend of the court may be asked to complete an evaluation before the hearing. You may want to view the following regarding custody and/or parenting time:
Michigan Custody Guideline
Michigan Parenting Time Guideline
Custody and Parenting Time Investigation Manual
A paternity order can be changed if necessary. See details for changing a child support order, custody order, or parenting time order.
Enforcing the Order
Unless you have opted not to receive the services of the friend of the court, If the paternity order includes child support and parenting time, the friend of the court will enforce these orders.
If a parent moves out of state, child support is still enforced. You may want to view the State Court Administrative Office's publication regarding the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.