Michigan court denies men right to establish paternity

Yesterday in Michigan an appeals court refused a man’s request that a paternity test be performed on a child that was conceived during his engagement to his now estranged fiancée.  The Times Herald reports that John Sprenger, 30, of Traverse City MI. claims he’s the biological father of a boy born in 2011. He and Emily Bickle, 33, were engaged, but the engagement ended and Bickle remarried her former husband before the child was born.

Under Michigan law if a child is born when the mother is married the husband is assumed to be the biological father and his name goes on the birth certificate by default.  Additionally, even if a paternity test it performed and Sprenger is found to be the biological father of the child he still would not be able to assert his rights as a father simply because the mother was married to someone else at the time according to Judge Elizabeth Gleicher and Judge Amy Ronayne Krause in their concurring opinions.

“When married parents choose not to explore the paternity of a child born during a marriage, a putative father has no right to meddle with their decision,” Gleicher stated in a separate opinion.

The case was tried under an older Michigan law that had weaker protections for fathers wanting to establish fatherhood.  Sprenger filed a separate lawsuit under the new law as well but lost that case in Benzie County Circuit Court. He’ll likely take it again to the appeals court.

“Justice fails when the truth is made subservient to procedural rules,” Sprenger’s attorney, Eric Phelps, said. While Emily Bickle’s attorney, Paul Jarboe, declined to comment on why his client doesn’t simply allow a paternity test he did state :“If you don’t have legal standing, that’s where the discussion stops.”




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