Despite how fathers were often perceived in the past, more and more people are recognizing that dads are essential to their children’s well-being. Unfortunately, many dads still face uphill battles when trying to actively participate in their kids’ lives. Some encounter daily struggles even after establishing paternity.

For example, a father has the right to access a child’s school records, which contain important information about the quality of his or her education. This right is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — FERPA — for both custodial and noncustodial parents. But there may be some schools in Alabama that block noncustodial fathers from their children’s records. So long as a father has established paternity, he may access those records, give consent for disclosure regarding personally identifiable information and request updates or amendments to records. He may also complain to the federal Department Education if necessary.

Fathers also encounter trouble with medical records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — HIPAA — can be a complicating factor, although this federal law generally permits parents to access children’s medical records. Parental access is usually permitted when a parent is acting as a child’s minor representative, but that representative could also be a non-familial relation. Even with paternity, a father might need help demonstrating his right to view his child’s medical records.

It is frustrating for fathers to continue fighting for their right to parent even after establishing paternity. Some facilities still view fathers as less involved than mothers and are hesitant to allow them access to necessary information, while others simply do not understand Alabama state or federal law. Dads who are struggling to get information necessary for participating in their children’s lives should consider whether speaking with an experienced attorney could be helpful.

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