Here we go again. The Michigan court of appeals, in Whiting v Bolt, Docket No. 261495 (decided November 21, 2006 unpublished), reversed the trial court and held that because the biological mother had executed an acknowledgment of parentage with her ex-husband, with whom she was living at the time the child was born, that the acknowledgment trumps DNA and that the man alleging to be the child’s biological father lacks standing to sue for an establishment of parentage, custody, and/or parenting time. The bio Dad had asked the trial court to revoke the acknowledgement of parentage and DNA testing established that the plaintiff was the biological parent.
Here’s the “killer language” from the COA’s decision:
“The Acknowledgement of Parentage Act permits a man and a woman, in place of adjudication under the paternity act, to legally acknowledge that the man is the father of a child.” Aichele, supra at 153. If a man acknowledges paternity in accordance with the act, he “is deemed to be the natural father of a child born out of wedlock . . . .” Eldred v Ziny, 246 Mich App 142, 148; 631 NW2d 748 (2001); see also MCL 722.1003(1). Under the Acknowledgement of Parentage Act, “a man and a woman can essentially stipulate to the man’s paternity.” Aichele, supra at 154-155. The execution of an acknowledgement of parentage “‘establishes paternity,’ meaning that ‘the man signing as the father’ has the ‘same relationship’ with the child as he would have had if the child were ‘born or conceived during a marriage.’” Killingbeck v Killingbeck, 269 Mich App 132, 143; 711 NW2d 759 (2005), quoting MCL 722.1004. A man who properly executes an acknowledgement of parentage for a child is designated the child’s legal father. Killingbeck, supra at 143-144. Therefore, when Bolt and Taylor-Bolt executed the acknowledgement of parentage in accordance with the Acknowledgement of Parentage Act, Bolt, not plaintiff, became the child’s father in the eyes of the law. Because the child’s paternity was established, MCL 722.714(2) precludes any further action to challenge paternity. Therefore, the child’s paternity could not be challenged under the paternity act, and the trial court should have dismissed plaintiff’s paternity suit.”
To read the COA opinion in Whiting v Bolt, click here:
Remember the Barnes v Jeudevine case? In that case, the child was born four months after the entry of the mother's judgment of divorce. Nevertheless, Barnes and Jeudevine signed an affidavit of parentage and Barnes was named on the birth certificate as the child’s father. Barnes lived with Jeudevine and the child for four and one half years. When their relationship terminated, Jeudevine refused to permit him to see the child and he sued to establish parentage.
Jeudevine responded to Barnes’ suit by neither admitting nor denying that he was the child’s father. She admitted to signing the affidavit of parentage but claimed that she did so under duress. She denied that the child was born “out of wedlock,” because the child had been conceived while she was legally married to her ex-husband. She moved for summary disposition and the trial court granted her motion, finding that (1) the child was conceived during the marriage and (2) there was no court determination that the child was a child born or conceived during the marriage but is not the issue of that marriage. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Barnes’ case for lack of standing, with Justices Kelly and Markman writing well-reasoned dissents. I wrote about this in an earlier blog posting.
As I wrote in this earlier post, the efforts by father’s rights groups to amend the Paternity Act and the Acknowledgment of Parentage Act in order to address the very narrow concerns those groups have has continued to perpetuate the flaws in those Acts that allow "work arounds" that frsutrate biological fathers in their attempts to establish parentage.
The only way that biological fathers are going to be able to protect their parental rights – particularly in this day and age when there are several published methods by which a biological mother can defeat the right of a bio-Dad to establish parentage is through enactment of the Uniform Parentage Act. Under the UPA, the fathers in Whiting and in Barnes would have been able to pursue their parentage claims as “presumed fathers.”
There is no right that comes without reciprocal responsibilities. That is true, too, in the case of parentage. Choices, choices, choices . . .
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