What is the Prosecutor's role in establishing paternity in Michigan?
After a referral from the Eaton County office of the Michigan Department of Human Services ("DHS") [formerly known as the Family Independence Agency, or FIA, and before that the Department of Social Services, or DSS], 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, and notice of a hearing date in Circuit Court. The Prosecuting Attorney's office schedules court appearances and arranges for DNA testing or buccal swabs from the parties. Finally, if paternity is established, the Prosecuting Attorney will prepare the Order for Paternity that is entered in the Circuit Court's Family Division.
Who do I contact at the Eaton County Prosecutor's office?
Our Paternity and Child Support Specialists, please call at (517) 543-4890, or 543-4897.
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. Establishing paternity gives a child born outside of marriage the same legal rights as a child born to married parents. Other reasons include:
How is legal paternity established?
How do I start a paternity case?
In many cases, when the custodial parent or a child's legal guardian receives state assistance for the child (e.g., birthing expenses, medicaid, food stamps, etc.), the Department of Human Services will send a referral to us to establish paternity and a support order, even if the custodial parent has not requested child support. The support money is used to reimburse the state for the covergae and services it spends on the child.
You must first contact the Michigan Department of Human Services' Support Specialist at (866) 540-0008 to request or apply for services provided by our office. The Support Specialist will assist you with the application. If necessary, they will attempt to locate the absent parent for you. Your case will then be referred to the Family Support Division in the Prosecutor's Office and a case will be opened.
Our Paternity and Child Support Specialists call (517) 543-4890, or 543-4897.
After your case is opened, you will be mailed an appointment letter and a questionnaire. You will be asked to fill out all the information requested and bring it to the office on your appointment day. The information will be used to file a lawsuit against the absent parent so it is very important that all information supplied is complete and correct. A complaint will be prepared and your case will be filed with the court.
What happens with the absent parent?
Once the support order case is filed, our office may schedule an appointment with the absent parent in our office. The case issues will be explained. A final Order, resolving the case by consent, might be signed at that time.
If the absent parent lives far away or out of state, we will send them notice of the case by certified mail. They may then contact us by telephone or mail. At times, it is necessary to arrange for papers to be served by an outside agency if the absent parent does not respond. Once the papers are served on the absent parent, the other party has a little less than a month to respond. If not, we will ask the Judge to enter a "default order" against the parent to establish paternity and/or child support. Payments will then be collected and obligations enforced by the Friend of the Court (FOC).
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:
Vital Records & Health Data Development
Michigan Department of Community Health
P.O. Box 30691
3423 North M.L. King Blvd.
Lansing, MI 48909
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. [NOTE: DHS used to be called the Family Independence Agency, or "FIA", and before that was called the Department of Social Services, or "DSS".]
What if the mother is not sure who her child's father is?
The mother should call a DHS Support Specialist, toll-free at (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 DHS Support Specialist.
When is a DNA/blood test necessary? How is a paternity DNA/blood test done?
A DNA/blood test is needed when the alleged father denies or questions paternity. If blood testing is ordered by the Circuit Court, the mother, child and alleged father will be scheduled for a joint blood drawing in the area. (In Eaton County, most cases do not involve withdrawl of actual blood samples. Rather, painless Q-Tip®-like swabs are rubbed inside the mouth, which painlessly capture skin cells containing DNA.) The samples 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 blood with similar details in the mother's and alleged father's blood.
What does paternity blood 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). If the results show that the alleged father is not the biological father, the case is dismissed. Because of its accuracy, the DNA/blood test result generally settles the issue, so contested paternity trials are rare.
Who pays for the DNA/blood tests?
The court will decide who pays. In many case, the alleged father is ordered to pay.
Can the parents do private DNA testing?
Yes. If a private attorney files a paternity case and wants to arrange DNA testing in our area, arrangements can be made directly with Orchid Cellmark, in East Lansing, MI; call toll-free (800) 837-1504.
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:
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 Correct a Certificate of Birth. 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?
Beside 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.
In Eaton County, child custody and visitation issues are decided before the paternity order is entered. Other counties may handle the timing of custody and visitation orders differently. Check with your county's Prosecuting Attorney!
What is a "support order"?
A support order means any order entered by the Circuit Court which requires the payment of money for child support, spousal support (alimony), medical, dental and other health care expenses, child care expenses, and educational expenses.
What is in a support order?
The final court Order will include a child support obligation, to be paid by income withholding (usually expressed in "$____/month"), a child care contribution, responsibility for medical insurance or uninsured medical expenses, the responsibility to report certain changes in circumstances or coverage to the Friend of the Court, reimbursement for pregnancy and/or childbirth expenses and, if the parties agree, a provision for parenting time.
How do I get a court order for child support?
A petition requesting an Order of Support must be filed in the Circuit Court. If both parties (and the Judge) agree on the amount, an order can be quickly entered. If the parties cannot agree, you can consult with a private lawyer, or contact the Department of Human Services to talk to a Support Specialist for free help. (You do not have to be on public assistance to seek help from the Support Specialist.) The DHS can refer a support case to the Prosecuting Attorney, who can file an action in Circuit Court under the Family Support Act.
Contact one of these locations to inquire about child support services (i.e., establishing paternity, child support orders, etc). DHS no longer has contact persons in their local county offices.
Once the support order has been entered, if the parents get back together and decide to end the family support order, they must contact their private lawyer or the Friend of the Court to stop the support order. It is not sufficient to just notify a DHS case worker.
How is child support determined?
Child support is set by a formula in the Michigan Child Support Guidelines. (You may want to download the Michigan Child Support Guidelines Manual.) This formula considers both parents' income, the number of children and their custodial arrangements, other child support payments, etc. (But every-day financial responsibilities like rent/mortgages, utilities, credit card debts, etc. are not factored in.) The baby's medical costs may also be included in the child support order. You may get a copy of the Michigan Child Support Guidelines by contacting:
Office Services Division / Publications Section
7461 Crowner Drive
Lansing, MI 48913
Telephone: (517) 322-1899
Will the Prosecutor help me collect child support?
No. The Friend of the Court is responsible for enforcing payment orders and collecting delinquencies (although you may also hire a private attorney to file an enforcement action). Child support is generally collected through income-witholding from the parent's paycheck. If the person is self- or un-employed, payment must be made personally.
What if the parent responsible for paying lives outside Michigan?
We can file a case for paternity and/or child support even if the absent parent lives in another state. In some cases, when that party is a former Michigan resident or other factors exist, we may still be able to file a case in our county.
If there are not sufficient ties to the state of Michigan, an action is filed under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). The papers are prepared in our office, filed with our court and forwarded to the state where the absent parent resides. The final court Order must be obtained in the other state. Although we process interstate cases right away, we cannot control the time it takes another state to obtain an Order. We will monitor the other state's efforts on a regular basis and contact you if additional information is required.
The parent responsible for paying support has stopped paying. What can be done?
The Friend of the Court is responsible for enforcing payment orders and collecting delinquencies (although you may also hire a private attorney to file an enforcement action). There are several options: income withholding orders, show cause hearings (civil contempt hearings held with the Judge who issued the support order), tax refund intercepts, and liens on the payor's property are the most common methods used.
I cannot find the non-paying parent. Are there free Internet sites that may assist my search?
Yes! The Michigan Department of Human Services' web site has a good list of parent locator services.
The parent responsible for paying support has moved to another state. What do I do?
The parent responsible for paying child support must continue to pay support through the Friend of the Court, even if he or she leaves the State of Michigan. If child support payments stop, the parent who is owed the money has several options:
What web sites have Michigan child support-related information?
Check out the Michigan Department of Human Services' Child Support page, the Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney's Family Support page, the Washtenaw County Prosecuting Attorney's Child Support Division web page, and the Midland County Friend of the Court's web pages! You will find answers to common support questions, plus information on and links to the Michigan Child Support Guidelines and Child Support Formula Manual.
Are there other web sites with child support information?
Visit our Downloads page, too. We have posted some child support and parenting time documents.
Read the Department of Human Services' Office of Child Support's informative brochure: