What rights do fathers have in Alabama? Even without a Court Order?
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Fathers have the right to stand up for themselves and their children. There is some bad news but there’s also much better news. The bad news is that there’s no such thing, technically, as Fathers’ Rights in Alabama. The good news, and the reality, is that fathers have the same rights as any parent, whether mother, father or non-binary. We know it doesn’t always feel that way. Frankly, it doesn’t always play out that way, but here is what the law says and what you need to know to get the most from the support, advice and advocacy of your Child Custody lawyer when it comes to Fathers’ Rights, or, as we prefer to call it, Parents’ Rights…
Section 26-17-305(a), Ala. Code 1975, states “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in Sections 26-17-307 and 26-17-308, a valid acknowledgment of paternity filed with the Alabama Office of Vital Statistics shall be considered a legal finding of paternity of a child and confers upon the acknowledged father all of the rights and duties of a parent,” emphasis added.
“WTF is a valid acknowledgment of paternity?!? I’ve never heard of such a thing. What do I need to do to get this filed with Vital Statistics…whatever the hell that is?”
If you are on your child’s birth certificate, YOU ALREADY HAVE!!!
The acknowledgement of paternity, (what you’ll hear attorneys for the government or a private attorneys trying to sound fancy refer to as an “AOP”), is the form you signed at the hospital when your Child was born. It’s how you got on the birth certificate in the first place.
(If you’re not on the birth certificate, your rights are more limited than what we discuss here, but you have what we call “latent rights”, or rights that you must assert or otherwise initially establish to be able to enforce. More information is available regarding getting on the birth certificate and establishing your rights as a father is AVAILABLE HERE.)
“So, if I’m on the birth certificate? and I apparently signed this form I’ve never heard of, what does that mean when it comes to what rights I have as a father?” Great question…
A father has ALL of the rights and duties of a PARENT. Not some of the rights that a mother might have, ALL of them. Again, “a valid acknowledgment of paternity filed with the Alabama Office of Vital Statistics shall be considered a legal finding of paternity of a child and confers upon the acknowledged father all of the rights and duties of a parent.” § 26-17-305(a), Ala. Code 1975, emphasis added.
So, generally speaking, and unless there is a court order that says otherwise…
Can a father make medical decisions for a Child even if he is not or was never married to the Child’s mother? Yes. (Just make sure you have a birth certificate handy. You can get a certified, authentic birth certificate at any local health department office.)
Can a father enroll a Child in school where the Father lives assuming any other requirements of the school system have been met? Yes.
But here’s where it gets tricky…
Can a mother withhold any communication or time for the Child with a Father if there’s not a court order requiring visitation? Yeah.
But can a father, if he has the child, withhold the child from the mother? Yes.
(This situation is what we call the “Child Custody Wild West.” See our short video on that HERE.)
Can a father get in trouble for not providing any kind of financial support for a Child even if the father doesn’t get to see the Child? Yes.
and here’s a wild one…
Can a father get in trouble for not providing any kind of financial support for a Child even if the biological father is NOT even on the birth certificate? Yes.
(For more information on Child Support, CLICK HERE.)
Please understand that every situation is different and, of course, requires more than a simple yes or no answer. But this is the place to start…
Fathers, you have rights. Hell, you have obligations, both to stand up for yourself as a Father and to be there for your children, literally, financially and otherwise. As § 26-17-305, above, clearly states, Alabama law gives fathers all the “RIGHTS and DUTIES” of a parent. In the eyes of the law, a parent is a parent, and a mother isn’t any more entitled to child support, time with a child or decision-making authority than a father until a court says otherwise.
If you would like to learn more about how you, as a Committed Parent or Caring Relative, can stand up for yourself and be more effective in your Child Custody, Divorce or Adoption case, PLEASE CLICK HERE to schedule your initial consultation at one of our offices.
This article contains general information and should not be construed as legal advice for you and or your unique situation. ~SW, Foxtrot