Gov. Rick Snyder today signed legislation to increase biological fathers' paternal rights, even in situations where another man already is legally acknowledged as the child's father.
The four-bill package allows a child's mother, legally acknowledged father or potential biological father to file an action to challenge which man should legally be viewed as the father. Under the current 1956 law, a woman's husband is presumed the father of her children, and challenging this assumption is nearly impossible. In addition, 43 percent of all Michigan babies are born to unmarried mothers, and many of these diverse family structures can cause legal uncertainty over children's paternity.
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.
The package includes:
- Senate Bill 557, sponsored by state Sen. Steve Bieda;
- S.B. 560, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Jones;
- House Bill 5328, sponsored by state Rep. Matt Lori; and
- H.B. 5329, sponsored by state Rep. Pat Somerville.
"Children thrive with parental involvement, and I am pleased this legislation pushes for increased involvement through easier legal recognition of biological fathers," Snyder said.
The bills now are Public Acts 159-162 of 2012, respectively.
The governor also signed S.B. 320, also sponsored by Jones. It ensures children only are placed in foster care if remaining with their parents causes a substantial risk of harm and no other safe arrangement can be made. The legislation stems from a 2008 case where an 8-year-old boy was removed from parental custody after his father mistakenly gave him alcoholic lemonade at a Detroit Tigers baseball game.
The bill now is P.A. 163.
Visit www.legislature.mi.gov for more information on the bills.