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.
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.