Biological fathers gain rights

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By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Biological fathers now have the right to challenge paternity even in situations where another man is legally acknowledged as the child's father. The recently enacted four-bill package allows a child's mother, potential biological father or legally acknowledged father to file an action to challenge which man should legally be viewed as the father.

According to Todd Selin, a member of the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Council from 2000 to 2009 and a domestic relations practitioner, the changes are embraced by Family Law Section.

''Senate Bill557 (now Act No. 159, Public Acts of 2012)," said Selin, "is part of a package of bills dealing with, primarily, revocation of paternity. Given that family law practitioners, like myself, have had to deal with the issue of mis-identified fathers for quite some time, the changes are welcomed."

The original paternity law of 1956, he explained, presumed that when a child was born

to a married woman, her husband was the father of that child.

"That presumption was," he said, "for the most part, unchallengeable by the biological father. Senate Bill 557 revokes the 1956 paternity act, allowing Courts to now either initially, or as a corrective measure, declare a biological or alleged father to have standing even if his child was born to a woman who was married to another man at the time of birth."

The bills include safeguards for the child. The Court, "even if a man is determined to be the father of a child through blood/tissue typing or DNA identification profiling, still has discretion to deny a request for correction of the former declaration of paternity if it is determined that doing so would not be in the best interests of the child."

"I feel as though these bills, and the revision of Michigan's antiquated paternity act, represents positive progress in allowing family courts to correct, under limited circumstances, erroneous paternity declarations. The safeguards enacted allow appropriate paternity corrections to be made, which makes more sense than the virtually insurmountable assumptions contained in the 1956 Paternity Act.''

Under the legislation, when an action to change legal paternity is filed, the court will order a DNA profiling or blood or tissue typing test. Based on the results and the best interests of the child, the court will decide paternity. This allows biological fathers in unusual or difficult family situations the chance for legal rights over their children.

The Department of Human Services also will be able to file a suit to determine paternity, as well as child support, for children of uncertain parentage who receive public benefits supported by tax dollars.

''Children thrive with parental involvement, and I am pleased this legislation pushes for increased involvement through easier legal recognition of biological fathers,'' Snyder said, signing the bills into law on June 12th.

The bills, Senate Bill 557,560 and House Bill 5328 and 5329, now are Public Acts 159-162 of 2012, respectively.

Todd Selin is a partner with Mallory, Cunningham, Lapka, Scott & Selin. He received his Juris Doctorate degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School and his Bachelors degree in psychology from the University of Massachusetts. Selin has focused his practice on domestic relations law for the past fifteen years and was also an elected member of the State Bar of Michigan Family Law Council from 2000 to 2009.

Selin has authored and published numerous articles in the Family Law Journal and other legal publications on a wide variety of subjects ranging from domestic eavesdropping to step-parent adoption. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Ingham County Bar Association Family Law Section, a position he has held since 2006.

Published: Thu, Jun 28, 2012

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