Father fights archaic law for parental rights after a man uses his daughter to sell drugs

Daniel Quinn with his daughter Maeleigh Beckwith / Courtesy Facebook

NBC25 has been following the tragic story of a Fenton father who's been fighting to have parental rights of his little girl after she was used to sell drugs by another man.

But, Michigan TMs Paternity Act, a 1956 law, won't let that happen

NBC25 found out how his struggle is inspiring lawmakers to take action.

This pile of toys belongs to a little girl who may never be able to come home.

As parents you don't give up, you never give up on your children, said Fenton resident, Daniel Quinn.

Fenton resident Daniel Quinn has been fighting the Michigan Paternity Act for years to gain parental rights of his 4-year-old daughter, Maeleigh.

Ultimately you are innocent until proven guilty, but in the Michigan Paternity Act you are guilty until proven innocent. It doesn't allow you to prove that you are the father, said Quinn.

Quinn was in a relationship with Candace Beckwith when Maeleigh was born, but Candace was also married to another man, Adam Beckwith.

I was told by the mother that the hospital would not allow me to go on the birth certificate because she never legally divorced her husband, but at the same time they approached the husband, and I have a document that shows the husband refused to sign the birth certificate, because he knew I was the father, said Quinn.

Quinn proved he was the biological father through a court-ordered DNA test, but by law the state gave parental rights to the husband, Adam Beckwith, because he promised a judge he would take care of Maeleigh as his own.

I guess what makes me more mad is that the state thought it was more important for them to look out for the integrity of a marriage, with no integrity within their marriage, said Quinn.

After Quinn helped raise Maeleigh for two years, Candace took her to live with her estranged husband in Ohio. Quinn hasn't seen her since 2008.

The Michigan Paternity act I believe has aided in the kidnapping of this little girl, taken from the only father that she has ever known, said Gregory Quinn, Maeleigh TMs Uncle.

Under the Beckwith's care, Maeleigh was used as a shield in a drug trafficking operation between Kentucky and Ohio.

He felt that having children with him in the vehicle would make it so police would not be as suspicious of him, said Quinn.

Now Adam is in prison, and Quinn, left with no parental rights, was forced to protest the Michigan Paternity Act last summer.

State Senator Steven Bieda heard his cry for help and was inspired to modernize the archaic law.

Its probably one of the most heart wrenching type of issues, said State Senator Steven Bieda, 9th District.

Senator Bieda will soon introduce a bill that will give Daniel, and other fathers standing to claim parental rights if the husband denies paternity, or if a relationship is established between the biological father and the child, and it will give judges the ability to rule what is best for the child on a case by case basis.

Until the law is passed, Quinn's family tearfully waits for Maeleigh's return.

We always pray to God to please make sure that Maeleigh is able to come back to our family, said Holly Austin, Maeleigh TMs Aunt.

I am holding you in my heart sweetheart until I can hold you in my arms, I love you and I miss you, said Sharon Quinn, Maeleigh TMs Grandmother.

Quinn says he's not only fighting for his little girl, but for all the Maeleighs out there.

Senator Bieda hopes to have a hearing on his bill this spring.

Meantime, similar legislation has been introduced in the House, by State Representative Matt Lori.

Tell us your story. How has the Michigan Paternity Act impacted your family?