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Establish Paternity

young man holding infant to him at lakeshore
Department of Health and Human Services

Establish Paternity

Why is it important to establish paternity?

Establishing a legal father is very important for a child who is born to unmarried parents. It gives the child the same rights and benefits as those of a child whose parents are married.

These rights and benefits include:

Identity
It’s good for children to know both of their parents. This gives the child a sense of identity.

Family ties
Every child has the right to a relationship with both parents. The child may come to know both sides of the family. This can give the child a sense of belonging.

Financial support
The law requires both parents to support their children. Parents can share the cost of raising their child, even if they don’t live together. Children are more likely to have their needs met when both parents give financial support.

Benefits
A child has a right to benefits from both parents. These can include:

  • Health and life insurance
  • Social Security
  • Pensions
  • Inheritance rights
  • Veterans’ benefits

Benefits are very important if a parent dies or becomes disabled.

Medical information
Knowing the medical histories of both biological parents can be important if the family has any health problems.

How is paternity established?
Married parents: If parents are married to each other when a child is born or when the mother became pregnant, the mother’s husband is the child’s legal father.

Unmarried parents: Parents who are not married to each other must do something to establish paternity. There are two main ways parents can establish paternity when they are not married:

  • Unmarried parents can establish paternity voluntarily. This means they agree to name the father of the child; or
  • Unmarried parents can ask the local family court to help establish paternity. This usually involves DNA paternity testing (also referred to as genetic testing).

It's important to note that the father's name can go on the birth certificate only if paternity has been established.

Four places to establish paternity
You can get the Affidavit form needed to establish paternity:

  • In the hospital at birth, the father's name may be added to the birth record free of charge up until the time the hospital files the birth certificate.
    Note: Paternity can still be established at a later date for no charge, but a fee is required to add the father's name to the birth certificate.
  • At your local Michigan Department of Health and Human Services office.
  • At the local county Registrar's Office.
  • Online - complete the Affidavit of Parentage form.

Both parents must have valid photo identification, and the completed Affidavit form must be signed in front of a qualified witness or notary.