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Michigan Law Keeps Biological Dads from Kids

father-and-childFathers in Michigan who have been denied the rights to see their kids simply because they aren’t married to the child’s mother are fed up. Some other man has been called daddy, and they just want to see their kids.

But the reasons for keeping them away described in the Detroit News this week put a strange twist on the concept of family.

If a woman is married to another man at the time of birth, the Michigan law gives him the rights of fatherhood - even if a paternity test proves otherwise. The man who is essentially the child’s stepfather is considered the completion of the family unit, and as long as the woman remains married to said man, the biological father does not have the right to visitation with his offspring. On the other hand, he doesn’t have to pay child support.

Except the dads say it isn’t about shirking the support. They want the chance to be parts of their kids’ lives, even if that means shelling out some cash.

You read stories every day about the chase for deadbeat parents, about parents who abandon their children. So why would a biological parent who isn’t showing himself to be unfit in any way other than  not being married to his child’s mother being denied the chance to reverse the trend?

It smacks of a state’s attempt to legislate parents’ relationships – married parents get a better shake than unmarried men. In many cases cited in the Detroit News, the man and woman were dating when she became pregnant, then split up. The woman is then rewarded for choosing to tie the knot, while her unmarried ex-boyfriend is penalized. Other dads are dating a woman separated from her husband at the time of conception, only to watch her go back to that husband, along with their child.

Because it’s only in divorce that those men cede their legal rights to a child, it would stand to reason that a woman could die while still married, and her spouse would automatically gain full rights as parent, even though a legitimate biological tie remains.

The idea that “two parents” are better than one has largely been disproven by studies, but what the state seems to have ignored is the fact that this situation doesn’t provide kids with just one parent. They could provide them with three – Dad, Mom and Stepdad. What an opportunity to provide a loving support network for one child unlike anything most kids (including those whose deadbeat parents have taken off or who have landed in foster care) experience.

A marriage does not make a parent any more than biology does. But the desire to be a part of your child’s life is a good start.

Image: daquella manera via flickr

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