In the court system, particularly when it comes to an unmarried woman who has given birth to a child, paternity determinations are necessary to ascertain the father of the child. Generally, however, if a woman gives birth to a child and at the time of the birth the woman was married, then her husband is considered to be the father of the child.

An unmarried couple can voluntarily choose to establish paternity. They can accomplish this by filling out what is referred to as an Affidavit of Parentage form. Paternity also can be acknowledged at the time of the child’s birth if the man adds his name to child’s birth certificate. If acknowledgment of paternity does not occur at the hospital, it can be established by visiting the local Department of Human Services or the county Registrar’s office.

When paternity has not been acknowledged, a court can order a man to undergo a DNA test to establish paternity. However, if there is a possibility that there may be more than one man who could be the father of the child and the woman is seeking child support from the father of the child, then she will have to disclose certain information about the potential fathers.

In some cases, when a man has been named as the father of a child, that individual can request a DNA or genetic test to show whether he is the biological father of the child. If a DNA test shows that there is greater than 99 percent chance that a man is the father, then that individual is considered to be the biological father of the child.

It is important to keep in mind that if a woman is on public assistance and has a child, but refuses to disclose information about potential fathers, then she may risk a significant reduction or complete cancellation of her benefits.

Source: Michigan Department of Human Services, “Paternity Establishment,” accessed Nov. 25, 2014