According to the Doctrine of Equitable Parent a non-biological father can be considered the natural father of a child where:
(1) The non-biological father and child mutually acknowledge a relationship as father and child or the mother of the child has cooperated in the development of such a relationship over a period of time,
(2) The non-biological father desires to have the rights afforded to a parent; or,
(3) The non-biological father is willing to take on the responsibility of child support. Atkinson v. Atkinson, 160 Mich.App. 601, 608-609; 408 N.W.2d 323 (1986).
The Doctrine of Equitable Parent most often becomes an issue during a pending divorce action after the husband has created a father/child relationship with the child knowing he was not the biological father of the child who was conceived during the father's marriage to the child's biological mother (See July 12, 2011 post regarding the Marital Presumption of Legitimacy); however, the doctrine also becomes an issue when a man holds himself out to be and establishes a relationship as the father of child by signing an Affidavit of Parentage. Guise v. Robinson, 219 Mich.App 139, 146-47; 555 N.W.2d 887 (1996). The emphasis in cases where the parties were never married is on the length of time the non-biological father held himself out as the father. Id at 147.
There are methods for overcoming The Doctrine of Equitable Parent in various circumstances by way of the Michigan Court Rules and The Paternity Act.