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February 6th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
A committee of the Michigan House of Representatives has approved a bill that would advance the rights of fathers ever so slightly.  Here’s an article about the bill (Livingston Daily, 2/2/12).

If enacted into law, the bill would give a man who’s married to a woman the right to challenge the paternity of a child born to her up until the child reaches the age of 18.  If DNA testing shows that the woman’s husband is not the father of the child, presumably, he would be absolved of child support responsibility if the pair divorced.

In short, the law gives some power to men who either are now married or were married and are presumed to be the child’s father.  They can demand proof of biological paternity at any time prior to the child’s 18th birthday and, if they’re shown not to be the biological father, be relieved of child support obligations.

That’s fine as far as it goes, which is not nearly far enough.  What the statute doesn’t do is give an unmarried man the same rights.  So, for example, if Joe has a sexual relationship with Jane who’s married to Jim, Joe’s ability to claim paternity of any child born to Jane is so limited as to be almost non-existent.

Specifically, as we so often see, his rights are in her hands.  In Joe’s case, under the bill’s terms, he has one year after the child’s birth to assert his paternity.  So all she has to do is keep the child secret from him for that length of time and his parental rights are dead.  Worse, even if he does try to act within the year, he’s still subject to he whims.

 (A) THE MOTHER AND THE PUTATIVE FATHER MUTUALLY AND OPENLY  
  ACKNOWLEDGE A BIOLOGICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PUTATIVE FATHER AND THE CHILD BY DOING ALL OF THE FOLLOWING: 
   (i) FILING WITH THE COURT AN AFFIDAVIT STATING THAT THE  
  PUTATIVE FATHER IS THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER OF THE CHILD. 
   (ii) FILING WITH THE COURT THE RESULTS OF BLOOD OR TISSUE  
  TYPING OR DNA IDENTIFICATION PROFILING THAT ESTABLISH THAT THE  
  PROBABILITY OF PATERNITY BY THE PUTATIVE FATHER IS 99% OR HIGHER. 
   (iii) NOTIFYING EACH INDIVIDUAL DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION (1)(D)  
  THAT THE AFFIDAVIT AND RESULTS HAVE BEEN FILED.

 (B) ALL OF THE FOLLOWING APPLY: 
   (i) THE MOTHER WAS SEPARATED FROM HER HUSBAND UNDER AN ORDER OR  
  JUDGMENT ENTERED IN AN ACTION FOR SEPARATE MAINTENANCE BROUGHT  
  UNDER SECTION 7 OF 1846 RS 84, MCL 552.7, OR NOT MARRIED AT OR  
  AROUND THE TIME OF CONCEPTION. 
   (ii) THE PUTATIVE FATHER FILES WITH THE COURT AN AFFIDAVIT  
  STATING THAT HE IS THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER OF THE CHILD AND THAT HE  
  CONSENTS TO DNA IDENTIFICATION PROFILING. 
   (iii) THE PUTATIVE FATHER NOTIFIES EACH INDIVIDUAL DESCRIBED IN  
  SUBSECTION (1)(D) THAT HE HAS FILED THE AFFIDAVIT. 
  (C) ALL OF THE FOLLOWING APPLY

 (i) THE MOTHER ACKNOWLEDGES IN WRITING A BIOLOGICAL  
  RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE PUTATIVE FATHER AND THE CHILD. 
   (ii) THE PUTATIVE FATHER DEMONSTRATES TO THE COURT THAT HE HAS  
  HAD PARENTING TIME WITH THE CHILD BY AGREEMENT WITH THE MOTHER. 
   (iii) THE PUTATIVE FATHER FILES WITH THE COURT AN AFFIDAVIT  
  STATING THAT HE IS THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER OF THE CHILD AND THAT HE  
  CONSENTS TO DNA IDENTIFICATION PROFILING. 
   (iv) THE PUTATIVE FATHER NOTIFIES EACH INDIVIDUAL DESCRIBED IN  
  SUBSECTION (1)(D) THAT HE HAS FILED THE AFFIDAVIT

So even if this bill passes, it’ll only benefit husbands who suspect a child, of whom they’re presumed to be the father, isn’t actually theirs.

The bill arises out of one of the more outrageous cases to come along in a while.  Here’s my original piece on it. 

Daniel Quinn had a lengthy relationship with Candace Beckwith.  They had a little girl they named Maileigh.  Daniel was thrilled with the little girl and, with Candace, raised her as his own.  But there was a problem; Beckwith was married to an Ohio drug dealer named Adam Beckwith.  Eventually, she took Maileigh to live in Ohio with Adam who somehow used her in his drug-dealing operation.  He went to prison and Candace lost her parental rights, but Quinn, despite being the responsible biological dad, had no rights to claim his child.

So that’s the problem that House Bill 4076 is meant to solve.  And, had it been in effect at the time, Daniel Quinn and his daughter would have benefited from it.  That’s because, as luck would have it, Candace and Adam weren’t living together when Maileigh was born.

But the bill is so narrowly crafted that, even then, all Candace would have had to have done was move back in with Adam before the child was born and, once again, Quinn would have been out of luck.

The bottom line is that, if this bill passes, it’ll improve Michigan law, but it’ll leave it far short of where it needs to be – protecting the rights of fathers to their children and ensuring that those fathers can assert those rights.

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