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What is the Prosecutor's role in establishing paternity in Michigan?


After a referral from the Cheboygan 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 Cheboygan County Prosecutor's office?


Our Paternity and Child Support Specialist is Jessica Farver. Call her at (231)-627-8411.


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:  

  • Identity: It is important to know who we are. Children who know both parents develop a sense of "belonging". Children may also benefit by knowing their family's biological, cultural, and medical history.
  • Money: The law requires both parents to support their children, even if the pregnancy was unplanned. Children supported by just one parent often do not have enough money for their needs.
  • Benefits: The child has the right to its parents' benefits (social security, insurance, inheritance, veterans', etc.).
  • Medical: The child may need a complete medical history from the families of both parents, including inherited health problems.

How is legal paternity established?  

  • If the mother is married when the baby is born, her husband is considered by law to be the father, unless a court says otherwise.
  • If the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception is considered by law to be the father.
  • If the mother is married at the time of conception or birth, but her husband is not the biological father of the child, a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage is not allowed unless a court has already determined that the husband is not the biological father.
  • If the mother is not married at the time of conception or birth, paternity can be established by (i) both parents signing a voluntary Affidavit of Parentage that is filed with the Michigan Department of Community Health's Office of the State Registrar, or (ii) a judge can declare that a man is the legal father after a hearing or default.


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 coverage and services it spends on the child.  You must first contact the Michigan Department of Human Services' Support Specialist at 1-866-661-0005 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 Specialist is Jessica Farver. Call her at (231) 627-8411 or (231) 627-8450 ext. 411.  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 will make contact with the absent parent and may schedule an appointment for them to come to 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:  

Central Paternity Registry
Vital Records & Health Data Development
Michigan Department of Community Health
P.O. Box 30691
3423 North M.L. King Blvd.
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 335-8676

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) 661-0005, 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 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 DNA testing is ordered by the Circuit Court, the mother, child and alleged father will be scheduled for a joint sample collection in the area. (In Cheboygan County, actual blood draws are not taken, instead, 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 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 tests?

The court will decide who pays. In many case, the alleged father is ordered to pay. 



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:

  • if the mother has been divorced or widowed for less than ten months, her husband at the time of conception will be named on the birth certificate, or
  • if the mother was not married at the time of conception or birth, the father's name can be placed on the birth certificate if an Affidavit of Parentage has been signed and notarized.

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?

Besides 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.


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 custody and parenting time.  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 ( 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:  

Department of Management and Budget
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-withholding 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. 


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.



What web sites have Michigan child support-related information?

Check out the Michigan Department of Human Services' Child Support (,1607,7-124-5453_5528---,00.html) . 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?

Check out the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support and the International Child Support ( web sites.


Custody and Parenting Time

Are there different kinds of custody?

Yes. The most common types of custody are Joint Custody [where the child lives with one parent part of the time and with the other parent part of the time and/or parents both share in making decisions on important issues dealing with the child] and Sole Custody [where the child lives with one parent and that parent is responsible for making decisions on important issues dealing with the child].


What is the Prosecutor's role in issues of custody and parenting time ("visitation")?

After a case is filed in Circuit Court and a temporary support order is signed by the Judge, the Prosecuting Attorney's office may refer the matter to the Friend of the Court's office for a formal recommendation on custody, support and parenting time ("visitation"). The Prosecuting Attorney does not appear in court on custody or parenting time ("visitation") issues or disputes. If you need help because you are being denied parenting time, you may contact the Friend of the Court for assistance once a judgment has been issued by a Circuit Court Judge, or you may seek the assistance of a private attorney who specializes in family law.