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Paternity Bills Move to House Floor

FOX 47 News

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Paternity Bills Move to House Floor

CREATED Mar. 23, 2012

After hearing Daniel Quinn's testimony Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance legislation that would change the Michigan Paternity Act.

The package of four bills, already passed by the senate, now goes to the house floor.

If passed, the bipartisan legislation would help reconnect children with their rightful parents.

Thursday, Quinn's daughter Maeleigh turned six.

"I was at the hospital when my daughter was born. I cut the umbilical cord," said Quinn.

But Quinn hasn't seen or talked to her for more than three years.

"She deserves to have her dad and her aunt and uncle. She deserves to have her family," said Quinn.

He lost custody of Maeleigh when the girl's mother decided to rejoin her husband out of state. Until then, they'd been separated, but not divorced.

"Currently Michigan law gives unmarried fathers few legal rights when they seek recognition and expanded roles in raising their children," said Sen. Steve Bieda.

Under Michigan law a child's legal father is the mother's husband at the time of conception or birth. But that 1956 law was passed before DNA testing.

"Family law has changed greatly over the past 30 years. Today 43 percent of all babies born in Michigan are born to unmarried women. The number of marriages is declining but the divorce rate has remained steady over the last decade," said Marilyn Stephen, director of the Michigan Office of Child Support.

Quinn's story inspired legislation that would allow judges to consider the best interest of a child when making paternity decisions.

"There are more and more families, because of today's societal norms, involved in the possibility that a different man may be the father," said Stephen.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to move the legislation to the house floor. Meanwhile, Maeleigh lives in Kentucky, with her mother's husband's parents. The husband is now in prison, Quinn says.

"It's been a very long process but you don't give up on your children, especially when you know they've been put in harm's way," said Quinn.

Lawmakers hope to take up the bills as early as next week in the house.

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