Even in cases where parents have divorced or never married, the father has the right to spend time with his children. For married parents, the husband is automatically the child’s legal father. Unmarried fathers must take steps to establish legal paternity in Michigan. 

Learn more about how to claim your parental rights and associated responsibilities when a relationship involving children ends. 

Paternal rights and responsibilities 

The court will typically order the parent who spends less time with the child to pay support. This allows both parents to contribute to the child’s financial needs even when they live in two separate households. Also, if you are the child’s legal father, you can petition the court for parenting time or partial custody. 

How to establish paternity 

When both parents agree on the father’s identity, they can sign an affidavit to name him as the legal father. You can complete this form online or at the registrar or Department of Health and Human Services office in the county where you live. Many parents complete the affidavit in the hospital when the child is born. If either parent is unsure of the father’s identity, he or she can request a legal paternity test through DHHS. 

Benefits of establishing paternity 

Your child will have strong family ties as well as a sense of belonging and identity when he or she has a relationship with both parents. You can also share important information about your family medical history, which will affect your child’s health risks. 

When you have a legal parental relationship, your child may be able to claim certain benefits in your name, such as veteran benefits, inheritance rights, pension, Social Security benefits, life insurance and health insurance. This ensures that your child will have financial support even if you die or become disabled. 

Either the mother or the father can ask for help establishing paternity. Michigan strives to ensure that children have relationships with both parents when it supports a healthy and safe upbringing.