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A Better Partnership
June 19, 2015

COA holds that the presumed father is a necessary party for paternity actions under the RPA

In Michigan, the Revocation of Paternity Act (“RPA”) provides standing for alleged fathers to seek a determination that a child was born out of wedlock, even though the mother was married at the time of the conception or birth.  MCL 722.1441(3); MCL 722.1433(c).  In Graham v. Foster, No. 318487, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that due to the important liberty interests at stake in the development of the parent-child relationship, the presumed father is a necessary party for actions brought under the Act.
 
Defendant Sharea Foster and her husband Christopher were married in 2004.  In 2008, defendant and plaintiff engaged in an extramarital affair, which plaintiff alleges resulted in the conceiving of a child.  This child, Blake Foster, was born September 23, 2009.  Plaintiff filed an affidavit averring that he was present at Blake’s birth and cut the umbilical cord during the delivery, however despite this, Christopher Foster was listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.  Plaintiff filed a complaint under the Paternity Act, MCL 722.711, et seq., in which he alleged that he was Blake’s biological father.  The circuit court dismissed this claim for lack of standing.  The legislature subsequently enacted the RPA, conferring standing on an alleged father, defined under the act as “a man who by his actions could have fathered the child.”  Plaintiff used the RPA as a basis to file a new complaint in which he requested an order determining his paternity, an order of filiation naming him as the child’s father, an order providing for joint legal and physical custody, and an order allowing reasonable parenting time.  Only the defendant was named as a defendant in the complaint.
 
Defendant moved for summary disposition arguing first that because plaintiff knew she was married at all relevant times, he did not satisfy the factual requirements of MCL 722.1441(3)(a), and second, that Christopher Foster was a necessary party to the action, but because of the expiration of the statute of limitations, he could not be added to the proceedings.  The circuit court found that the RPA did not require plaintiff to name Mr. Foster as a defendant and that he was not a necessary party to the lawsuit.  The Court of Appeals held that Mr. Foster was a necessary party as he had interests that would not be adequately addressed if he were not a party to plaintiff’s lawsuit.  The Court further held that the limitations period did not bar the suit because an additional defendant may be brought in after the expiration of the limitations period if the new party is a necessary party.  The Court of Appeals denied plaintiff’s motion for summary disposition and remanded the case for the addition of Christopher Foster as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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