Paternity is the legal link between a father and a child. Being legally designated as a child’s father is a very important matter. The importance of paternity is most apparent in matters like child custody in Alabama, child support, and inheritance. There are times when a child’s paternity may be in question, and for those situations the law has procedures to go about establishing paternity. How paternity is legally established depends on a variety of factors.
The easiest way to establish paternity is voluntarily. When a child is born, both the mother and the father sign a form acknowledging they are the parents and the father is added to the child’s birth certificate. If the parents are married when the child is born, the law usually presumes the husband is the father. If a child is born within 300 days of a married couple getting an Alabama divorce, then the ex-husband is usually presumed to be the father.
In situations where the child’s parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth (or are not recently divorced), there is not usually a presumption as to who the father is. Perhaps the parents were not exclusive sexual partners during that time, which the law takes into account. In those situations, the mother and the man seeking paternity rights may consent to a DNA test performed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. If the DNA test comes back supporting the father’s claim of paternity, he will need to get a court order to that effect to have official legal paternity rights. He can do that by filing a Petition to Establish Paternity.
Sometimes the mother claims a man is the father of her child only to have the man deny that the child is his. In these situations, the mother can bring a claim against the alleged father and the court could eventually insist the man submit to a DNA test. Likewise, sometimes a mother may not want to acknowledge a man’s paternity, but the father wants to be involved in his child’s life and to have his paternity legally recognized. The father may file a similar case with the court to request to have a DNA test done to prove he is the father.
A third situation where establishing paternity is usually necessary is where a man is legally considered to be a child’s father, for instance if you are married to the child’s mother, but it is suspected that the child is the product of an affair. Maybe you would take a DNA test that proves you are not the father, in which case you should consider asking the court to sever your presumed paternity. If this is not done, you could still be considered the legal father and responsible for all that comes with that including child support.
Paternity cases can be emotional and complex. If you are involved in a paternity case, or have questions about paternity, our local Birmingham divorce attorneys can help.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate closings on this website. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply feedback. We appreciate our readers & love to hear from you!