unwed fathers rights

Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Alabama

The separation of an unmarried couple in Alabama is not considered to be a legal divorce. Pertaining to this, different rules apply to unmarried couples that are raising children.

There is a legal assumption that paternity is generally not awarded to unwed fathers when married couples split up. Full parental custody, as such, is typically given to the mother. This is unless the father takes deliberate actions for obtaining parental custody.

As such, about forty percent of babies in the United States are born to unmarried women. The preponderance of children born out of wedlock affects another crucial group who should be involved in the lives of these children — their fathers. Do unmarried fathers have rights to their children?

The fundamental legal principle that underlies fathers’ rights in Alabama is that both the father and mother have rights as well as responsibilities to their children. In reality, fathers have a disadvantage in that it is not always so obvious who is the father of a given child.

Alabama law presumes that a particular man is the father of a child if he was married to the baby’s mother when the child was born. What can a father do if he was not married to the child’s mother and cannot rely on this presumption?

In this case, the father should first protect his rights by registering with Alabama’s recognized father registry, a database that includes the identities of men alleging to be the fathers of children. This enables him to receive notice if the mother or the state were to initiate adoption proceedings.

Unmarried fathers in Alabama that want to seek custody can establish paternity by doing the following:

  • Ensuring their name is listed on the child’s birth certificate. This may not be possible if you missed out on doing this at the point of the child’s birth.
  • Filling out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form.
  • Taking a paternity test.
  • Petitioning the court for establishing paternity.
  • Using the Alabama Putative Father Registry for acknowledging paternity.

Paternity would still need to be established if paternal grandparents are petitioning for child custody after the separation of unmarried parents. This is necessary before any further action can be taken. Unmarried mothers cannot pursue child support and other forms of assistance for raising their children if they deny a paternity test. They can seek child support only when paternity has been proved.

A man has two ways to show that he is a child’s father. He can either sign an acknowledgment of paternity with the mother’s consent, or start a court action to determine paternity of the child. In such an action, he can present evidence, including DNA evidence, to prove that he is the father.

Often, a formal determination of paternity becomes necessary after a couple separates and has to deal with issues of custody. If you are in a situation where you need to establish your rights as the father of your child, contact a family law attorney at our office for help.