I currently live in Michigan and my daughter lives in North Carolina with her mother. We have a child support order in place but no divorce or custody agreement set. I informed my daughter’s mother I will be picking her up for Christmas so my daughter can come visit me and my family. She told me that she will not allow me to take my daughter out of state and I am trying to find out if she can legally do this?
Although I am licensed to practice law in Michigan, I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney formally because I can only give you general information about paternity cases in Michigan. You should not rely upon this information as creating an attorney-client relationship. If your current child support order is from North Carolina and/or paternity was established there, you should contact an attorney in North Carolina for advice. Cordell & Cordell, P.C. does have an office in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we will be happy to assist you in locating an attorney if needed.
The answer to your question depends on a few different things – the myriad facts, of course, and most notably, how paternity was established and whether your child support order actually contains custody and parenting time provisions. In Michigan, if you signed your daughter’s birth certificate or filed a form titled “Acknowledgment of Paternity” with the State, then by default you render yourself liable for child support but do not automatically receive equal custodial rights with your daughter. Unless either party brought a child custody action under the Child Custody Act of 1970, custody remains with your daughter’s mother. That means, you may not necessarily have parenting time rights at Christmas time, and what she says goes. If a prosecutor brought a paternity action against you to establish your paternity and to obtain a child support order, then at that time the judge could have entered an order called an Order of Filiation for child custody and parenting time. If that happened, read your order carefully. The order should indicate whether you have parenting time rights at Christmas time. If the order is silent on custody and parenting time, then the same default rule (custody with the mother) applies.
Merely paying child support for your daughter does not give you parenting time rights. If you would like to establish those rights, you might consider initiating a court case to do so. However, interstate acts like the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) apply. Depending on how long your daughter has been in North Carolina (e.g. more or less than 6 months) and whether she has significant contacts there over Michigan, North Carolina’s laws may apply to your case. You should contact an attorney if you want to pursue time with your daughter immediately, as there are specific and very complicated filing requirements to initiate such a case.
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims. Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.