AOPs vs. Judicially-Determined Custody

Affidavits of Parentage, often referred to as "AOPs" are documents that unmarried parents are offered soon after the birth of their child. The document's primary purpose is to establish the legal father of the child. The identity of the legal mother of the child is, well, obvious.

I have noticed that there is a common misunderstanding among unmarried fathers that Affidavits of Paternity automatically create legal custody and parenting time rights . This is simply not true.

Notably, the Affidavit of Parentage states, in part:

(c) The mother has initial custody of the child, without prejudice to the determination of either parent’s custodial rights, until otherwise determined by the court or agreed upon by the parties in writing and acknowledged by the court. This grant of initial custody to the mother shall not, by itself, affect the rights of either parent in a proceeding to seek a court order for custody or parenting time.

(d) Either parent may assert a claim in court for parenting time or custody.

(e) Both parents have a right to notice and a hearing regarding the adoption of the child.

What does an AOP really do?

* It helps to protect the rights of the father to pursue legal custody and parenting time in a Michigan court.

* It eliminates the right of the father to seek court-ordered genetic testing.

* It helps the State pursue child support from the father for the benefit of the child.

* It eliminates the right to a court-appointed attorney for the father in an action to prove paternity.

*It eliminates the right to a trial to determine if a man is the biological father of a child.

So it doesn't provide the father with legal rights?

Not really - except - you will have the right to adequate notice of legal matters that involve your child.

The important take-away is that unmarried fathers will still need to file a motion in the appropriate court requesting a determination of legal custody and parenting time.

If you a father who has signed an AOP, you should consult a family law attorney to understand the limitations of your rights with regard to your child/ren.

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