TOM GOERGE: Custody issue

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The Daily News Team

QQuestion: My child’s mother requested that I bring our child back during my normal visit. The police told me that I had to comply with their demand because we were never married and we had no legal custody. I signed an affidavit of parentage when our child was born. Doesn’t that give me the right to keep my child until we’re done with our visit?

Answer: When custody disputes arise between never-married parents and no court has determined custody, law enforcement is called upon to intervene.

When a child is born, a document called an “Affidavit of Parentage” can be signed by both parties. This document confirms that the newborn is the child of the listed father. Completing the document allows the father to be named on the birth certificate if the mother and father are not married.

However, it does not give the father custody. The form clearly states that the mother is the custodial parent until custody is determined by a court.

Typically, the problem comes to light when there is a dispute between the parents of a child who have never been married and the court does not determine custody and the father does not return the child to the mother. This refusal can lead to criminal charges for child abduction. Because the issues involved are very sensitive, such investigations require close scrutiny by the public prosecutor before criminal charges are filed. The desired outcome is for the noncustodial parent to comply with follow-up and friend-of-the-court filings.

Many consider this to be an unfair prison sentence; However, it is the current state of the law.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages people who have a child together to always put the child’s best interests first and put aside any negative personal opinions about the other parent. Clear custody decisions and compliance with these orders by both parties also ensure a calmer living situation for the children.

Lt. Thomas Goerge has been with the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office for more than 33 years. Daily News readers can email law enforcement questions to, which may be answered in future columns.

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