“In Troxel v Granville, 530 US 57, 120 S.Ct. 2054 (2000), the United States Supreme Court declared that parents have "perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court," i.e. the right to determine the care, custody, and control (including the associations) of their children. 530 US at 65.
“Children share in this due process liberty interest with their parents. In In re Clausen, 442 Mich 648, 502 NW2d 649 (1993), this Court specifically recognized the "mutual due process liberty interest" between natural parents and child. [Citing In re Clausen]
“The mutual rights of the parent and child come into conflict only when there is a showing of parental unfitness. As we have held in a series of cases, the natural parent's right to custody is not to be disturbed absent a showing of unfitness.”
Representing a Father in a Child Abuse and Neglect Case: The Importance of Establishing Paternity
Fathers are important in the lives of children. As you all know, I’ve written extensively on this topic for the past ten or more years. Many young lawyers fresh out of law school frequently handle assignments for child abuse and neglect cases. These cases are a good way to get experience and can be “bread and butter” for young lawyers building their practices. But the precious lives of children and the constitutional rights or their parents and the responsibilities of their parents are in the hands of often inexperienced lawyers. Establishing paternity within the child protective is essential for many reasons, not the least of which is to protect his parental rights and to make him available for placement of the child.
Identifying the Father: It is important that all parents involved in a child’s life are included in the child protective proceedings as soon as possible. Early identification and involvement of a noncustodial legal father who is actively involved in a child’s life may allow him to serve as a safe and permanent placement for a child. On the other hand, an absent and uninvolved legal father should be located, made a respondent to the petition, and, if appropriate, have his parental rights terminated. Only by establishing paternity within the case may the biological father protect his parental rights and be permitted to participate in the proceedings.
How to identify the father / how to get him involved in the child protective proceedings / how to protect his rights: Process, Procedure and Substantive Law
See the process and procedure for establishing paternity for child protective proceedings at Chapter 6 of the Benchbook identified below.
Resource for Lawyers Representing Parties in a Child Abuse and Neglect Case:
Fortunately, there is a free resource available to guide Michigan lawyers involved in child abuse and neglect cases. See Child Protective Proceedings Benchbook—Fourth Edition A Guide to Abuse & Neglect, published by the Michigan Judicial Institute. One can only hope that this bench book is downloaded onto a tablet and carried into the courtrooms and conference rooms and judicial chambers whenever a lawyer, a GAL, an LGAL in representing a child or parent in Child Protective Proceedings. This PDF Benchbook is tabbed with hyperlinks so it is possible to negotiate easily in and through the treatise as needed during case conferences, pre-trial conferences, dispositional hearings, and trials are conducted.
MORE ABOUT THE BENCHBOOK: What is is and how to obtain it
The Child Protective Proceedings Benchbook—A Guide to Abuse & Neglect, [Lansing, Mich.] : Michigan Judicial Institute, c2012. 4th ed.
This fourth edition was initially published in 2012, and the text has been revised, reordered, and updated through July 18, 2018. This benchbook is not intended to be an authoritative statement by the Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court regarding any of the substantive issues discussed.
The list of contributors to this treatise is impressive—and has, over the years, evolved as authors have passed the baton along to others.
Although this benchbook is primarily intended for use by judges and referees presiding over child protective proceedings in the Family Division of Circuit Court, it also contains information useful to all participants in the child protection system in Michigan. It is hoped that this benchbook will be of use to anyone who participates in that system, and that this benchbook will help those dedicated to improving the lives of Michigan’s children.
Get the Benchbook: This is an essential tool in the toolkit of all lawyers who practice in Family Court in neglect and abuse proceedings. The detail, the resources, including citations to cases and studies is a guidebook and a tutorial so that lawyers can develop the skills necessary to perform their essential and important roles in these proceedings no matter which of the participants in the proceeding the lawyer represents. A PDF copy of the Benchbook may be obtained from the website of the Michigan Judicial Institute at the following URL: