Someone opined today on Michigan's Family Law Section Listserv that:
"The next step that I foresee is that somebody is going to try to stick Ms. Jeudevine's ex-spouse, whom I gather is a Mr. James V. Charles, with a child support obligation. He would then, I suspect, move to amend the J/D by adding a Serafin order, either in the J/D itself or in a separate order, plus an amendment of the J/D language to conform to the Supreme Court's requirements. Then Mr. Barnes could refile and get the proper result."
I see a major problem with this approach:
If Ms. Jeudevine is not receiving Title IV-D services, then no one but she will file to establish a support relationship. Where the mother can afford to raise the child without support, she may be tempted to go the route that Ms. Jeudevine has apparently taken. This often operates to the detriment of birth fathers as Mr. Barnes' case has demonstrated.
I believe that Barnes v Jeudevine represents a prime example of why biological fathers of children who sign an acknowledgment of parentage need, in order to protect their parental rights, to go further. Now, of course, they might marry the mother and that would make it simple to establish custody/parenting time/supports orders if their marriage fails. But for some reason, marriage doesn't appear to be very popular these days. The incidence of cohabitation has skyrocketed. Between 1960 and 2000, cohabitation has increased 1,247% according to Census 2000.
The Acknowledgment of Parentage Act provides fathers with a means of protecting their parental rights in the event their relationship with the mother fails. MCL 722.1006 provides as follows:
"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 otherwise agreed upon by the parties in writing and acknowledged by the court. [Emphasis added]
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."
Just as I believe that cohabitation agreements are required in order to protect property interests of both parties to a cohabitation relationship, especially if they plan to hold real estate as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, a father must protect his parental rights by getting a written agreement with the mother about custody, parenting time and support issues in the even of a breakup. Needless to say, it's a whole lot easier to get these agreements if the parties are functioning as a couple instead of suffering the painful aftermath of an unfriendly failure of the relationship.
For an interesting TV news interview with Barnes, the child's father, see WWMT.com Digital Channel 3 (last visited July 28, 2006 jmh)
Parentage issues have long been of special interest to Jeanne Hannah. To contact Jeanne Hannah with your questions or to view her Family Law website, click here.