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Can unmarried Michigan fathers obtain shared custody?

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2023 | Child Custody

Many couples achieve major life goals without formally marrying one another. The number of unmarried couples intentionally having children, buying houses together or even starting businesses has been on the rise in recent decades. This trend can be a beneficial one for a number of reasons. However, there are unique challenges that come from achieving certain life goals while in a non-marital romantic relationship.

One of the biggest challenges can be addressing what should happen with custody of shared children if an unmarried couple breaks up in the future. Can unmarried fathers in Michigan secure shared custody when they no longer cohabitate with the mother of their children?

Unmarried fathers have rights

The custody laws in Michigan do not specifically reference the sex of either parent. Therefore, fathers and mothers theoretically have the same rights regarding time spent with their children and important decisions about their upbringing.

The marital status of the parents can influence what steps a father must take to secure shared custody after ending a romantic relationship with the mother of his children. Often, unmarried parents have already acknowledged the man’s paternity. They may have completed paperwork at the hospital to have his name included on the birth certificate. In that scenario, an unmarried father could very easily go to family court to request parenting time.

If the father’s name is not currently on a child’s birth certificate, then he may need to establish paternity. There is a presumption of paternity in Michigan when a married woman has children. Unmarried women need to acknowledge the father by submitting certain paperwork to add his name to the birth certificate.

If a mother will not cooperate with that process, then an unmarried may need to ask the courts to order genetic testing. A paternity test can authoritatively establish the genetic relationship between the father and his child. After paternity testing, a man can add his name to a child’s birth certificate and seek shared custody rights just like any other father in Michigan.