Alabama's Uniform Parentage Act controls cases initiated to establish the parentage or paternity of a child. A party must file an action to establish paternity in the court where the child lives, the mother lives, or the alleged father lives. The action must begin before the child turns 19 (which is the age of majority in Alabama). If parentage is established, the father is bestowed with certain rights.
Child Support Rights and Obligations
Children in Alabama, just like children elsewhere in the United States, must be supported by the parents. An Alabama family law court may order the mother to pay the father child support in cases where paternity is established and the child is to live with the father. A father who establishes paternity, therefore, has the right to receive support from the mother (if a court determines it to be necessary). Conversely, a father also has the duty to pay for the child's living and medical expenses.
Alabama recognizes that children benefit from seeing and spending time with both parents. If a father establishes parentage, that father has the right to visit his child. The visitation schedule may be agreed upon by the father and mother, or may be imposed by the court (the court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child). After the schedule is agreed upon or ordered by the court, the father has the right to seek the court's help in enforcing that order should the mother refuse to let the father see his child.
Decisions about Child's Welfare
Once paternity is established, the father has the right to help make decisions about the child's welfare and future unless a court orders that the mother has sole power in this area. Even under such an order, a father can appeal and request to have equal say by demonstrating that having an equal say would be in the best interests of the child. Decisions about a child's welfare include decisions concerning where the child attends school, opinions as to what religion (if any) in which the child should be raised, and medical issues.