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FAMILY LAW 79: Plaintiff did not achieve the status of natural parent.

Plaintiff and defendant were not married to each other. During the relationship, defendant underwent in-vitro fertilization and gave birth to a child. The parties agree that plaintiff has no biological relationship to the child, and that after the child was born plaintiff did not adopt the child.

Joint Custody

In her complaint, plaintiff alleged that after the child was born both parties parented the child, even after the parties’ relationship ended.  According to plaintiff, in 2017 defendant demanded that plaintiff have no further contact with the child. In 2020, plaintiff filed action for joint legal and physical custody of the child and argued that the child’s best interests were supported by the parties sharing custody.

Plaintiff argues that she has standing to seek custody under the CCA because the parties were equitably married at the time the child was conceived and born, and she therefore is the child’s natural father.

Child Custody Act of 1970

In Michigan, the Child Custody Act of 1970 (CCA) governs custody, parenting time, and child support issues for minor children; it is the exclusive means by which to pursue child custody rights.

In her answer to the complaint, defendant asserted that plaintiff lacked standing to seek custody of the child under the CCA because she had neither a biological nor adoptive relationship with the child. Defendant thereafter moved for summary disposition of plaintiff’s complaint under MCR 2.116(C)(5) and (8), asserting that plaintiff lacked standing to seek custody of the child and had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

Natural Parent

The CCA defines parent as the natural or adoptive parent of a child. The Court has defined natural parent as meaning that the person is a parent related to the child by blood rather than by adoption. In addition, a person may also be deemed a natural parent under the equitable-parent doctrine. However, the court specifically declined to extend the equitable-parent doctrine outside the context of marriage.

The CCA defines a third person as an individual other than a parent. Under the CCA, a third person does not have standing by virtue of the fact that he or she resides with the child and has a ‘personal stake’ in the outcome of the litigation. Further, a third person may not create a custody dispute by simply filing a complaint in circuit court alleging that giving legal custody to the third party is in the child’s best interests.

The court determined that plaintiff in this case is not a parent of the child. The trial court granted defendant’s motion and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice.

Child Custody & Support

Aldrich Legal Services assists parents with all types of child support and custody matters, including, relocation, petitioning for or contesting modifications, enforcing child support orders and negotiating child support agreements.

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