The Michigan Court of Appeals issued a published opinion on December 5, 2017 regarding child custody and parenting time, where the parties have an Acknowledgment of Paternity, but no subsequent written agreement or Court Order regarding custody and parenting time. In Natassia T. Sims v. Danny Darney Verbrugge, the Court of Appeals addressed the procedure by which an acknowledged father can gain custody or parenting time after an acknowledgement of paternity is signed. You can read the opinion by clicking here.

Contrary to popular belief, under Michigan’s laws, an acknowledged father of a child born out of wedlock is not automatically considered to be a joint legal and joint physical custodian of a child. In fact, while the child custody act states that a child has full rights after the signing of an acknowledgment of parentage, the statute makes clear that a mother is presumed to have initial custody of the minor child. “After a mother and father sign an acknowledgment of parentage, the mother has initial custody of the minor 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.”

In simple terms, if you are an acknowledged father, are not married, and do not have a subsequent written agreement acknowledged by the Court granting you parenting time or do not have a custody and parenting time order, if you want joint custody or parenting time to be guaranteed to you, you MUST file a separate action for custody and parenting time, as permitted by the Child Custody Act. Obtaining a change in custody or parenting time is a complicated issue for family law judges and attorneys. There is a multiple step process that must be properly navigated in order for the Court to make a determination that a change in custody or parenting time is necessary. If you are in this situation, make sure to contact Fowler & Williams, PLC right away. We can handle any family law situation, including child custody disputes like this one.