It is common these days for children to be born "out of wedlock", or to parents that are not married. While these parents may live together as a family, their rights are very different than a household where the Mother and Father are legally married. This becomes especially important when those parents break up or otherwise separate. It's important for an unmarried Mother to understand her rights in respect to her children.
When a child is born, the Mother and Father will usually be asked not only to sign the Birth Certificate, but also an "Affidavit of Parentage" (DCH-0682). It is very common for neither party to read this document in the excitement of a new baby. The Affidavit of Parentage establishes some very important rights for both parents, let's review some of the most important:
Who has custody? Paragraph (c) of this document states that "The mother has initial custody of the child...". It is important for Mothers to understand that they have initial sole custody of their children until the Father pursues custody in a Court. A Mother does not need to open up a custody case to have sole custody for a new child born out of wedlock.
Paternity Test? Another important thing for Mothers to consider is that this document makes the Father the legal Father of the child. Even if he turns out NOT to be the biological Father of the child, it may not be possible to remove him as the legal Father down the line. As a legal Father, the Court can pursue him for child support and the Father himself can pursue custody, even if he is not the biological Father. If you have any doubt as to the paternity of your child, you should not allow the Father to sign an Affidavit of Parentage. If the Father proves to be the biological Father with a DNA test, he can always be added to the birth certificate later.
Child Support? The Affidavit of Parentage does not start a child support case for you, nor does it obligate a Father to pay. In order to establish child support, a Domestic Support (DS) case would need to be opened. Beware that, as part of this DS case, custody may become an issue. Always discuss with an attorney before opening up a case.
Parenting Time. It's important to again note that a Mother has initial custody and thus a full say in parenting time, unless a Father opens up a Custody case. A Mother may want to make sure she has a copy of the Affidavit of Parentage showing her initial custody rights on hand should the Father threaten to take the minor child or keep the child from his/her Mother. This document can be requested with DCH-0569-AOP.
Always make sure you speak to an attorney to know your rights if you are an unmarried Mother. Attorney Allison Greenlee Korr handles cases in Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and all surrounding counties, call today for a consultation. 269-381-4471