Paternity Establishment

paternity_photo.gifWhat is the Prosecutor's role in establishing paternity in Michigan?

After a referral from the Office of Child Support (Department of Human Services), the Prosecuting Attorney's office interviews the custodial parent and files a complaint in Circuit Court. The non-custodial parent is served with a copy of the complaint. The Prosecuting Attorney's office schedules genetic testing if requested by the putative father. Finally, if paternity is established, the Prosecuting Attorney will prepare the Order of Filiation and Referral to the Friend of the Court that is entered in Circuit Court.

Who do I contact at the Leelanau County Prosecutor's office?

Our Paternity and Child Support Specialist is Stacy Lamb. Call her at (231) 256-8173, 1-866-256-9711, ext. 173 or through email at

The alleged father, mother, physical custodian, or Department of Human Services can initiate a case.


What is paternity?

Paternity means "fatherhood". The term "establishing paternity" means making the biological father of a child born out of wedlock the legal father as well.

Why is it important to establish paternity?

The parents and the child have the right to have a parent-child relationship. But, there are more reasons:

  • Identity: It is important to know who we are. Children who know both parents develop a sense of "belonging".
  • Money: The law requires both parents to support their children, even if the pregnancy was unplanned. Children supported by just one parent often do not have enough money for their needs.
  • Benefits: The child has the right to its parents' benefits (social security, insurance, inheritance, veterans', etc.).
  • Medical: The child may need a complete medical history from the families of both parents, including inherited health problems.

How is legal paternity established?

  • If the mother is married when the baby is born, her husband is considered by law to be the father, unless a court says otherwise.
  • If the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception is considered by law to be the father.
  • If the mother is married at the time of conception or birth, but her husband is not the biological father of the child, a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage is not allowed unless a court has already determined that the husband is not the biological father.
  • If the mother is not married at the time of conception or birth, paternity can be established by (i) both parents signing a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage that is filed with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar, or (ii) a judge can declare that a man is the legal father after a hearing or default.

How can the father voluntarily acknowledge paternity?

Both parents must sign papers acknowledging paternity. The Affidavit of Parentage must be notarized and filed with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar. Before signing the form in the presence of a notary public, the father must provide pictured identification and his social security number (plus other identification, if necessary).

Can the Affidavit of Parentage be filed by mail?

Yes. The completed Affidavit of Parentage form can be mailed to:

Central Paternity Registry
Office of the State Registrar
Michigan Department of Community Health
P.O. Box 30195
3423 North M. L. King Blvd.
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 335-8676

Is there a fee for filing the Affidavit of Parentage?

No. However, certified copies of the Affidavit of Parentage are available from the Central Registry for $13.00 (additional copies are $4.00 each).

What if the father refuses to acknowledge paternity?

The mother (or the Michigan Department of Human Services), if the child is receiving public assistance such as Aid to Dependent Children) may bring a paternity suit to have the matter resolved in court. The alleged father is entitled to a hearing in Circuit Court to prove whether he is the father.

What if the mother is not sure who her child's father is?

The mother should call the Support Specialist at 1-866-540-0008, who will help her to identify and locate (if necessary) the father free of charge. The mother does not have to be on public assistance to seek help from a Office of Child Support Specialist.

When is a genetic test necessary? How is a paternity test done?

A genetic test is needed when the alleged father denies or questions paternity. If genetic testing is ordered by the Circuit Court, the mother, child and alleged father will be scheduled for testing. Buccal swabs are taken from the mother, child and alleged father and are tested at a laboratory. The tests compare many different and complex details of the child's tissue sample with similar details in the mother's and alleged father's tissues samples.

If the mother is not available, we can still test for paternity.

What does paternity testing show?

The tests can accurately show that a man is not the father of the child, or a percentage of likelihood that he is the father (e.g., 99.48% probability). Because of its accuracy, the test result generally settles the issue, so contested paternity trials are rare.

Who pays for the genetic tests?

The State of Michigan pays if the alleged father is excluded.

If the alleged father is found to be the biological father, he will be ordered to pay for the test. At this time the cost is approximately $68.

What happens if the mother or father is not 18?

In Michigan, the mother's or father's age is irrelevant.

How long after the child is born can paternity be established?

Both Michigan and federal laws permit paternity actions to be started anytime before the child reaches the age of 18. But, you should not wait to establish paternity. Your child has the right to expect regular and continued emotional and financial support from both parents. Give your child the best possible chance in life by getting paternity established now!

When can the father's name be put on the birth certificate?

If the mother is married, her husband's name will be recorded on the birth certificate. In other circumstances:

  • if the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception will be named on the birth certificate, or
  • if the mother was not married at the time of conception or birth, the father's name can be placed on the birth certificate if an Affidavit of Parentage has been signed and notarized.
  • birth certificates are not automatically changed when an Affidavit of Parentage is filed, unless the change is made at the birth hospital before the birth has been registered. Changes to registered birth records can be requested based upon a properly completed Affidavit of Parentage, but the birth record correction must be requested on an Application to Add a Father. These forms are available at the County Clerk's office or the Office of the State Registrar. A birth certificate can be changed to reflect the father listed on this Affidavit if no other man is recorded on the birth certificate as the child's father. Should a conflict exist, a court determination of paternity may become necessary.


If the parents decide to voluntarily acknowledge paternity, what other steps must be taken?

Besides filing the notarized Affidavit of Parentage with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar, the parents should try to agree on issues of child support, parenting time ("visitation") and custody. If the parents cannot agree, then they must get a court order.

This page last updated on 12/16/2015.