Has this happened to you? You decide to go to court to set the record straight as to establishing who your child's father is. You mention it to a few friends and suddenly, everyone is telling you what to do in court. If you are a resident of Alabama, this article will give you reliable information about paternity law for your state.
If you still have questions after reading this article, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.
The first way to establish paternity is voluntarily. Fathers and mothers may agree to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity form which identifies who the child's legal father is. Once this form is signed and filed, the father's name can be added to the child's birth certificate.
If parents can't agree on who the father of the child is, they will need to go to court to establish paternity. This means that a state court will determine paternity. Alabama law allows any of the following persons or agencies to start a paternity action:
The child may also start a case to establish paternity, although practically speaking a minor child would not have the wherewithal to do so. In that instance, an adult would act on the child's behalf to hire an attorney or complete the necessary paperwork to get the case into the court.
The Alabama juvenile courts have the authority to make decisions on paternity cases. The case should be filed in the juvenile court for the county where the child resides. The court will order a genetic test for the mother, child and the putative father.
A case can be brought anytime after the child's birth, but before the child's 18th birthday.
Whenever a paternity matter is heard in court, the judge must also make orders for:
In addition, the court may make the following additional orders for:
If a mother is left to support and raise a child on her own it stands to reason that a child support order against the established father would greatly benefit her child. Additionally, the child may be covered under health insurance benefits through his father.
Many men are becoming aware of the importance of a father figure in a child's life. If the parents are not on good terms, the putative father may need court orders for visitation. The father may want joint legal custody with the mother, which means the father and mother have equal say in decisions concerning the child's health care, education, religious upbringing among other major issues. A father must establish paternity before he can seek custody or visitation. Once his paternity is established, he has parental rights to the child.
Numerous studies show that children benefit by having both parents involved in their lives in addition to the benefit of health insurance and financial support. A child stands to inherit from his or her father's estate as well. If the dad is eligible for Social Security benefits, the child may also be eligible as the father's dependent.
The Child Support Enforcement Office of the Alabama Department of Human Resources offers help to establish paternity when the mother wants a child support order. The agency's website can be found at http://dhr.alabama.gov/services/child_support_services.
Legal Services of Alabama sponsors an informative self help website at www.alabamalegalhelp.org. Click on the "do it yourself forms and letters" link. Then scroll down to the paternity section for a link to an instructive brochure and fill-in forms to represent yourself.