My ex-wife had a child by another man shortly after we divorced. My name was allegedly put on the child's birth certificate by the state because we had not been divorced for at least 10 months when the child was born.
The biological father has taken a paternity test and was proven to be the father, but he signed over his parental rights to the state as did my ex-wife.
My ex-wife now claims her caseworker told her that I'm the only one with parental rights to the child and she wants me to terminate them so she can reclaim custody.
How can I find out if I'm on the birth certificate and if I have rights to this child, who we all agree is not my biological son?
Based on the information you provided, you are not in a situation where your ex-wife is claiming that you are the father of the child, and further, there is a court record of some type of court hearing in which your wife stated that she was not pregnant at the time of your divorce. It's helpful that that the biological father was discovered through a paternity test and later, his parental rights terminated.
Although you believe that your ex-wife is being cooperative, you should still take the initiative to investigate the claim that you were "put on the birth certificate."
The state (in this case Michigan) has jurisdiction over the child, and addressing any claim of parental rights to the child for any person named as the father, would be something the caseworker would be required to look at. This is particularly true since you have never had any contact with the child.
Try asking her for the name and contact information of the caseworker involved in her case and contact that person directly to clarify the facts of the situation and obtain documentary evidence that you are not listed as the father.
Your ex-wife would certainly have this information, for she appears to be actively trying to regain custody from the state. If this gets you nowhere, you could also make a request for a copy of the birth certificate from the State of Michigan. You can do this online.
When making a request for a birth certificate, the certificate will only be forwarded to you if you are actually named on the birth certificate itself. If you discover that you are named as the father, you should contact an attorney to assist you in taking the next steps in getting your name removed.
Because there was no specific court order or decree entered setting forth that the child was not yours, the state will not remove your name without proof that you are not the child's father. If the child was conceived before the divorce was final, the law will presume that you are the legal father.
Finally, under no circumstances whatsoever should you sign any document that releases parental rights to the child because in doing so you would first be affirming that you are the child's father. You can’t release rights that you didn’t hold in the first place. Further, even if you were to release parental rights, the law does not automatically relieve you of a child support obligation.
Although I am licensed to practice law in Michigan, please note that I am not able to give you legal advice without having thoroughly reviewed your case, and therefore you should not rely on this information as an establishment of an attorney-client relationship.
If you need detailed information or advice, or wish to take specific action in this matter, you need to contact an attorney immediately for assistance. Cordell & Cordell does represent clients in Michigan and nationwide.
Tamara Hoffstatter is an attorney in the Troy, Michigan, office of Cordell & Cordell where she exclusively practices family law.