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What is the process for disputing paternity in Michigan?

Understanding Paternity Disputes in Michigan

The process of disputing paternity in Michigan is governed by specific state laws designed to protect the rights and interests of all parties involved, including the child, mother, and presumed father. When questions concerning a child's paternity arise, it is crucial to navigate the legal procedures with care and accuracy to ensure that the child's welfare and the individuals' rights are upheld.

Establishing Paternity

In Michigan, paternity can be established voluntarily or involuntarily. When a child is born to unmarried parents, paternity can be acknowledged by both parents signing an Affidavit of Parentage. This document legally identifies the biological father. However, there are situations where doubt may arise after this affidavit has been signed, or where an individual who is not the biological father is mistakenly identified as such.

Challenging Paternity

To dispute paternity, any party who doubts the father's identity may file a complaint with the circuit court in the county where the child or alleged father resides. The party challenging paternity typically must do so within 3 years of the child's birth or within 1 year after the Affidavit of Parentage is signed, whichever is later. However, exceptions can be made in cases of fraud, misrepresentation, or if new evidence comes to light.

In these proceedings, the court will often order genetic testing to determine biological parentage. If test results indicate that the presumed father is not the biological father, he may seek to set aside the Affidavit of Parentage.

Legal Representation and Court Proceedings

It is highly advisable for individuals involved in a paternity dispute to seek legal representation. A family law attorney can guide them through the complexities of Michigan's legal system and help protect their rights.

The court will consider various factors during litigation, including genetic test results, testimony from involved parties, and the best interest of the child. The judge’s decision could affect custody, parenting time, and child support obligations.

Historical Case Example

A notable case that highlights the complexities of paternity disputes is Serafin v. Serafin (1975), where a Michigan man contested his paternity after discovering he could not have children. The court’s decision underscored the importance of timely action and accurate evidence in resolving paternity issues.


Disputing paternity in Michigan requires careful consideration and adherence to legal procedures. With potential lifelong implications for all parties involved, particularly for the child's welfare and emotional well-being, it is a matter that demands thoughtful attention and professional guidance.