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Paternity not a factor in some child custody disputes

While most people living in Utah and other places around the country may assume that identifying paternity plays a large role in resolving many family law issues, that’s not always the case. Legislation concerning child custody can vary from state to state, and sometimes standards do not always reflect current issues. One recent case illustrates how previously established laws affect modern cases, and highlights the complicated role paternity plays in some custody disputes.

The case in question took place in Michigan, and revolves around the issue of parental versus paternity rights. In 1956, it was established that a man didn’t necessarily have to be the biological father of a child to be responsible for that child in Michigan. As long as the man was married to the child’s mother, he was granted parental rights. That ruling, while meant to safeguard the rights of men at the time, now stands in the way of one man seeking custody of his biological child.

The Michigan appeals court that has most recently ruled on the man’s case concedes that the law does not support his paternity claims even though it acknowledges that the plaintiff is doing the right thing by attempting to be with his child. According to the court, because the child’s mother was married at the time she and the plaintiff had a baby together two years ago, the plaintiff’ s paternity does not determine parental rights. The law dictates that the woman’s husband be recognized as the child’s legal parent.

The findings of the appeals court complement a previous ruling on the matter and expose just how tentative paternity rights can be from state to state.


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