Paternity in Alabama

Learn how you can establish paternity and why it's beneficial for your child in Alabama.

By , Attorney · University of New Hampshire School of Law
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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.

How Paternity is Established

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's mother
  • the man who believes he is the father or who has been identified as the father (also known as the "putative father")
  • the Alabama Department of Human Resources
  • an authorized adoption agency
  • a licensed child-placing agency
  • a legal representative for a person who has the right to go to court to establish paternity but is deceased, incapacitated or a minor, and
  • any "interested person," which can be any person who has a direct interest in the outcome but does not fit into the other categories.

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.

Starting the Case

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:

  • child support
  • health insurance for the child, also called "medical support," and
  • a wage assignment, also called "income withholding."

In addition, the court may make the following additional orders for:

  • custody of the child, meaning where the child will live and which parent will be able to make decisions for the child
  • visitation, which means when the non-custodial parent will see the child
  • payment of the court costs (the fees the court charges related to the case)
  • payment for the genetic testing, and
  • payment of the mother's reasonable attorney's fees.

What are the Benefits to Establishing Paternity?

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

Legal Services of Alabama sponsors an informative self help website at 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.

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