More and more babies are born to unmarried parents every year. Alabama ranks 5th in the nation for babies born to unmarried parents, at 48.4% in 2020. This number is on the rise as familial norms are shifting away from the traditional notion that babies shouldn’t be born out of wedlock. With that being said, when a baby is born to an unmarried couple, it is much harder for the father or non-birth parent to establish parental rights. Verbal agreements are extremely difficult to enforce without legal ties to the child and the mother maintains the freedom to move away, deny visitation, and make decisions without consulting the father if the father hasn’t established paternity. Even if you have unofficial agreements and seem to be on the same page about parenting decisions, unmarried fathers need to protect their role in their child’s life by legally establishing paternity.
By legally establishing paternity, unmarried fathers will have a legally enforceable say in decisions about childrearing and will have the right to visitation and custody. However, when establishing paternity, the father doesn’t just get the rights to the child, but the legal responsibilities included in parenthood including providing for the child and potentially paying child support until the child reaches the age of majority or the father’s parental rights are later severed.
When a child is born to unmarried parents, the child’s custody and rights are automatically assigned to the birthing parent. They are automatically given the rights, responsibilities, and protections of parenthood. However, this is not necessarily the case with fathers or non-birthing parents.
Alabama recognizes a presumption of paternity in six scenarios:
Absent these situations, an unmarried father has a few options to establish paternity. Firstly, the parents can fill out a form voluntarily acknowledging paternity by identifying the child’s father. From then, the father’s name can be included on the birth certificate. Otherwise, paternity can be established by filing a Petition to Establish Paternity, which can be filed by any party. The process involves taking a DNA test ordered by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. If the DNA test indicates paternity, an Alabama court will need to make an official order establishing a legal parent-child relationship.
Establishing paternity can be a very stressful ordeal, especially when the parents aren’t on the same page about childrearing. An experienced family law attorney with expertise in paternity law can help guide you through the process and fight for the best possible outcome. With over 55 years of combined experience offering comprehensive family law services, The Hankey Law Firm is well-prepared to assist you in your paternity, and all of your family law, needs. We provide client-centric, personalized representation to the people of Cullman County, Blount County, Winston County, Madison County, Morgan County, and beyond, across the great state of Alabama. Contact us today or call us at (256)-736-8744 so we can get started fighting for you.