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MI Leaders Work to Correct Problems of "False Fatherhood"

Men who are improperly named the father of a child can face financial and legal challenges. (Pixabay)
Men who are improperly named the father of a child can face financial and legal challenges. (Pixabay)
June 19, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – While some Michigan men enjoyed their Father's Day with family, for others it was a cruel reminder of the injustice they face.

In Michigan and some other states, it is easy to become the named father of another man's child. And that can mean expensive financial challenges and legal responsibilities.

State Rep. Jim Runestad, R-Milford, explains that a very old law in Michigan states any child born in a marriage is presumed to be the father's. He contends it creates an undue burden for men who have been betrayed.

"The wife could be having an affair that results in a child, and maybe she eventually moves in with this man, but the child must be supported by the husband," he says. "You already have infidelity to deal with and you may have to support that child, that is not yours, for the next 18 years."

He says false establishment of paternity not only destroys families and finances, it can also lead to incorrect medical advice for children. Runestad is working with other legislators, including State Rep. Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township, to introduce a bipartisan package of bills to address the problem.

Runestad has talked with men who have been forced to pay nearly $30,000 for a child that is not theirs. He says it's a problem that some people just don't understand.

"I've literally heard legislators say to me, 'Well, somebody has to pay for that child,'" he adds. "'The mother can't afford it and somebody's got to pay.' 'Well, how about you,' you know, 'why don't you step forward?' In a worse case, it's a state obligation, but you don't simply pick a person out of a crowd and say, 'You pay.'"

Sometimes men are improperly notified by court processors and declared dads by default, something Runestad believes also needs to change.

"We heard testimony of process servers serving the same four people hours apart on the same day and time," says Runestad. "So, obviously, they're lying. So, we're making it a felony if you are a process server and you lie."

Other measures legislators will work to address include providing potential fathers notification of the right to DNA testing and ensuring wages are not garnished from wrongly named fathers.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI