Fathers have equal rights and obligations towards their children as mothers. However, establishing a father’s rights in Alabama is not always straightforward.
Depending on the circumstances, fathers may need to go to court to establish paternity, obtain partial custody, or seek visitation rights. The Alabama paternity lawyers at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates explain some rules for fathers seeking to establish parental rights in Alabama.
Establishing a Father’s Rights in Alabama
Establishing legal paternity is the first step to attaining fathers’ rights in Alabama. Paternity means legal fatherhood. Once you establish paternity, you have all of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Alabama paternity laws set forth several ways to establish legal fatherhood.
Presumption of Paternity
Alabama law presumes that a man is the father of a child under certain circumstances.
Generally, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if the child is born during the father’s marriage to the child’s mother. The presumption also applies if the child is born within 300 days of the end of the marriage. Plus, even if the marriage is later annulled or declared invalid, the presumption still applies between the father and child.
Additionally, the presumption of paternity applies if the child is born before the parents marry and the father:
- Signed an acknowledgment of paternity,
- Agreed to be named on the birth certificate, and
- Is required to pay child support.
A presumption of paternity only applies in this context if the parents marry or attempt to marry after the child is born.
Acting As the Father
Alabama law also presumes that when a man publicly holds himself out to the world as a child’s father, he is legally the father of the child.
For this presumption to apply, the father must do the following:
- Welcome the child into his home when the child is a minor,
- Openly hold himself out as the child’s father,
- Establish a close relationship with the child, and
- Provide emotional and financial support to the child.
If these elements are met, the man has automatic legal obligations to the child.
Paternity for Unmarried Fathers
Establishing an unmarried father’s rights in Alabama requires proactive steps.
A father can demonstrate paternity by doing the following:
- Signing an acknowledgment of paternity form, or
- Filing a paternity case in court.
You can get an acknowledgment of paternity form from the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or from the local office of vital records. Both parents must sign the form.
A court case is a more complicated matter. Along with paternity, a court may also decide on custody, visitation, and child support issues. You should consult with an attorney about a paternity case.
Custody and Visitation Rights for Fathers
Alabama’s policy is generally that a child benefits from regular interactions with both parents. The law seeks to encourage parents to share parental responsibilities after their relationship ends. Thus, mothers’ and fathers’ custody rights in Alabama are equally important.
Child custody consists of legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about the child’s life, including education, medical care, religion, and travel. Physical custody is the right to spend time with a child. All parents have the right to request custody.
Joint Custody and the Child’s Best Interests
Generally, a court will consider joint custody if it’s in the child’s best interest.
To determine the best interests of the child, the court considers the following:
- The parent’s ability to cooperate,
- Whether the parents agree to joint custody,
- Each parent’s ability to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent,
- Any history of abuse or violence, and
- The proximity of the parent’s homes.
If one parent has a history of family or domestic violence, a court generally will not award joint custody to the problematic parent. The court may grant the innocent parent sole custody and permit supervised visitation with the other parent. The parent with the problematic background can challenge this decision with credible evidence.
Other Custody or Visitation Arrangements
Sometimes, equal joint custody doesn’t work for the child or parents. In this case, the parents can negotiate other custody arrangements.
For example, parents can agree that one parent has the child most of the time, but both parents share joint legal custody. Or they can agree that one parent has sole custody and the other has visitation rights. So long as both parents can show the court that the plan is in the child’s best interests, the court will likely agree.
Contact Our Office About Parental Rights in Alabama
Children generally benefit from having both parents in their lives. However, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates know that each case about a parent-child relationship may have special circumstances or specific challenges.
Fortunately, our experienced family law attorneys can help establish a father’s rights in Alabama, fight for appropriate custody arrangements, and ensure that every parent fulfills their obligations to support their children. Contact us online or call (256) 859-7277 today for a free consultation.