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The right to parent a child, spend time with a child, and direct a child’s upbringing belongs to that child’s biological or legal parents. While a child’s mother is often known, knowing if you are the father can be more challenging and uncertain. If you are a male and have not signed the child’s birth certificate, you may need to file a paternity action to establish your parental rights. Women, too, can benefit from paternity actions. If you are a woman and your child’s father did not sign the birth certificate, you must file a paternity action and have a court find the man to be your child’s father before the court can order him to pay child support. When paternity is challenged, both men and women can benefit from competent legal counsel to help them argue their positions. At Hankey Law Firm, our Cullman County family lawyer Shelbie Hankey has extensive experience arguing on behalf of both men and women, mothers and fathers, in Alabama paternity actions. 

Paternity Presumptions in Alabama 

In Alabama, if a child’s father is unknown, the court may examine whether one or more presumptions of paternity are applicable. As the name implies, a presumption of paternity is a circumstance or situation that, if present, allows the court to presume a man is a child’s father. 

Alabama recognizes six different presumptions of paternity. They include the following: 

1. If a man and woman are married and have a child while married, the man is presumed to be the child’s father

2. If a man and woman are married, but the marriage ends, the man is presumed to be the father of a child born within 300 days of the marriage’s end date

3. If a man and woman were not legally married but attempted to marry, then the man is the father of any child born while the two of them are together, and any child born within 300 days after the relationship’s end

4. If the man and woman are not married at the time of the child’s birth but later marry or attempt to marry, the man is presumed to be the father of a child if he acknowledges his paternity in writing, allows his name to be placed on the birth certificate, or supports the child either voluntarily or because of a court order

5. A man is the presumed father of a child that he openly holds out to the public as his own, and with whom he establishes a substantial parental relationship

6. If a man legitimizes a child under Alabama law, he is presumed to be the child’s father

A paternity presumption cannot be ignored unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the court should not follow it. 

How Is Paternity Established in Alabama?

Despite the basic presumptions associated with paternity, each situation is different. As an example, one or more presumptions might apply in a single case, suggesting that two or more men are the father of a single child. In this case, a Cullman County paternity lawyer can help you sort through the conflicting evidence and establish a paternity order against the appropriate man. 

You may also need an attorney’s assistance if you desire genetic testing. Courts in Alabama do not always order genetic testing in paternity cases, especially where one or more presumptions apply. Your attorney can review your case, looking for facts that might compel a court to order genetic testing to establish paternity.  

Why Should You Choose an Experienced Cullman Paternity Lawyer from Hankey Law Firm? 

At Hankey Law Firm, we understand that establishing paternity can be an emotional, yet necessary procedure. When you choose a Cullman paternity lawyer from Hankey Law Firm, you will find that we make communication with our clients our top priority. We make it easy for clients to reach us, utilizing a client portal to communicate and send documents so you always know where your paternity case stands. Attorney Shelbie Hankey is a strong advocate for her clients, always taking the necessary time to comprehensively research and plan case strategies.  

Experience, integrity, and knowledge make Hankey Law Firm the firm to choose when you are facing a paternity issue. Many of our clients come to us during one of the most difficult times of their life. We strive to help them make sense of their circumstances, helping them find a way out of a hurtful or harmful situation. When you have all your questions answered in a thorough, yet easy-to-understand manner, you will likely feel relief, knowing that there is a strong Cullman paternity lawyer working for your best interests. Hankey Law Firm offers professionalism, compassion, communication, and experience and will work passionately on your behalf.  

How Do You Get a Paternity Test in the State of Alabama?

Establishing paternity can be complicated but is usually always in the best interests of the child. A surprising statistic from the American Association of Blood Banks found that three out of every ten men tested to determine paternity turned out not to be the biological father. This makes paternity DNA testing even more important in cases where paternity is in question.  

Once paternity is established, the biological father must contribute to the financial welfare of the child. It is a widely accepted fact that barring unusual circumstances, most children do better when they have two parents to love and care for them. The establishment of paternity also affects a child’s right to inheritance should the father pass away. Just as important as the financial aspect, establishing paternity can help a child feel a sense of belonging. In the state of Alabama, the simplest method of establishing paternity is voluntary. That is, both parents sign a form that acknowledges paternity by identifying the legal father of the child.  

Once the form has been filled out, signed, and filed, the father’s name can be added to the birth certificate. If the father refuses to acknowledge paternity, a DNA test can be ordered by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Even if the DNA test definitively proves biological paternity, papers must still be filed in the form of a Petition to Establish Paternity, and an Alabama court will issue an order establishing paternity. If the named father of the child outright denies paternity and the father or mother declines to engage in genetic testing as ordered by the Alabama Department of Human Resources, the next step is a court case.  

While it is usually fathers that deny paternity, the same process can be used if a man wants to establish paternity of a child but the mother denies he is the child’s father. It is likely that the parties will still need to submit to genetic testing for an answer as to the child’s paternity.  In a situation where a married woman had an affair and that affair resulted in her pregnancy, the presumed paternity must be severed by a court judgment, or the court will continue to consider the husband as the child’s presumed father.  

How Long Does a Paternity Test Take? 

A DNA test is simple, relatively unobtrusive, and extremely accurate. Epithelial cells are collected by rubbing a soft cotton swab on the inside of the cheeks of the mouth to obtain DNA from the alleged father and the child. If the mother submits her own DNA, the lab is able to determine which half of the child’s DNA comes from the mother, making the remaining DNA the father’s. The remaining DNA must match the alleged father and is presented using a percentage of probable paternity. 

An informational basic paternity test costs about $190, while a legally admissible paternity test costs around $290. If you are unable to obtain a buccal swab (cheek swab) from the presumed father and must resort to testing a toothbrush or similar item, it will cost an additional $100 for the paternity test. The good news is that DNA test results are usually available in 2-4 business days once the specimens from all parties are properly collected.   

Why Should You Hire a Cullman Paternity Lawyer Near You? 

There are many excellent reasons to hire a Cullman paternity lawyer from Hankey Law Firm. These reasons include: 

  • Establishing paternity can be a very emotional process. Having a strong paternity lawyer to take charge of the legal matters and navigate the often-complex processes and laws, can ensure the paternity process is done correctly, and can soothe the emotions associated with the process.  
  • Having a Cullman paternity lawyer by your side ensures all the proper documentation is submitted in a timely manner with the proper legal grounds substantiated with facts. Attorney Shelbie Hankey has significant experience working within family law and with paternity issues.  
  • Your Cullman paternity lawyer will ensure your rights and the rights of your child are protected during a divorce or paternity case. Communication between the parties can be confrontational, which never serves the interests of the child.  
  • Fairness when determining parental responsibilities is ensured when paternity is clear. This can extend to financial responsibilities as well as to timesharing between the parents.  
  • Once paternity is established, your Cullman paternity lawyer from Hankey Law Firm will advocate on your behalf during determinations of child support and custody.   
  • If there are significant changes over time, a modification to a paternity order could be warranted. Perhaps one parent suffers an illness or a disability, rendering them unable to be the primary caretaker of the child. Your attorney will prepare and file such a modification to the existing paternity order.  
  • In the end, family law can be quite complex, so hiring an experienced Cullman paternity lawyer from Hankey Law Firm ensures you have an advocate for your rights and the rights of your child. 

Hiring a Cullman Paternity Lawyer Near You

Attorney Shelbie Hankey and Hankey Law Firm is ready to take your paternity case, working zealously for a good outcome. We will ensure that all your questions are answered, always making a point of keeping in touch with you from start to finish. If you reside in or around Cullman County and need an order of paternity to see your child or to compel the payment of child support, Hankey Law Firm is available to help. Contact us today to discuss your case.