An unmarried father can face greater barriers to getting child custody or visitation than a father who was married at the time of his child’s birth. The best way for a father to protect his rights is to establish paternity. This is sometimes done via formal paternity proceedings in court, but fathers in Alabama can also voluntarily establish paternity.

One method for doing so voluntarily is to sign a form that acknowledges paternity. This “acknowledgement of paternity,” once signed by both parents, legally establishes him as the father, guaranteeing him all the rights and obligations that go along with this role. If an unmarried father does not sign this form or is otherwise unable to, he may voluntarily seek judicial determination. It is not uncommon for a man to ask for DNA testing to ensure that he is the child’s biological father before officially establishing paternity.

Things are a little more complicated when a woman who is married has a child with a man who is not her husband. When a married woman gives birth, her husband is legally presumed to be the father. When this is not the case, the biological father can file a paternity petition with the court. The court usually has the discretion to decide what is best for the child regarding custody and support. For example, the biological father might get visitation rights, but be denied custodial rights to avoid interfering with the child’s home life.

A father cannot exercise his rights without first establishing paternity. This not only harms him, but his child as well. Alabama fathers who wish to have visitation, share custody or simply play a larger role in their children’s lives may want to consider reaching out to an attorney who is experienced in handling paternity issues.

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