Senate passes change in parental rights

LANSING — Legislation designed to update Michigan’s outdated paternity act passed the Senate Thursday. This bi-partisan package was sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge and Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren.

Senate Bill 256 would allow a possible biological father to file a petition to determine paternity under certain circumstances. Current state law does not give a possible biological father legal standing to file a paternity action to show he may be the biological father of a child born to a married woman.

According to Jones, the measure was introduced following the tragic story of a Fenton father, Daniel Quinn, who has been fighting to obtain parental rights of his child (after she was used to sell drugs by another man).

“It was clear to me that the Michigan Paternity act needed updating, and this bill does just that,” Jones said.

Quinn was in a relationship with Candace Beckwith while she was still married to another man, since her divorce was not yet legal. A child was born as the result of their relationship and Quinn helped raise the child for two years. Eventually, Beckwith moved back in with her estranged husband, Adam Beckwith, in Ohio.

The little girl was used as a shield in a drug trafficking operation and Adam Beckwith went to prison. Now Quinn, the biological father, has no rights under Michigan law to gain custody of his daughter Maeleigh.

The bill would allow a biological father to claim parental rights within a year of his child’s birth if the mother is married to another man at any time from conception to the birth of the child and her husband denies paternity, or if a relationship is established between the biological father and the child. The measure would also give judges the ability to rule what is best for the child on a case-by-case basis.

“As long as they are behaving lawfully, fathers have a right to be with their children, plain and simple,” Jones said.

The measure now advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration.