"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." William Congrave penned that line in the 17th Century and, when it comes to father's rights, the same may be said of your ex after a messy breakup.
Men who father children out of wedlock can be put at a distinct disadvantage in when it comes to having a relationship with their children. Alabama has some specific rules about establishing paternity, and there are a few cracks an angry ex-girlfriend or ex-wife can use to throw up roadblocks against you.
The marriage issue
Alabama laws can get a little sticky regarding fathers' rights. Long separations, affairs and recent divorces can pose particular problems for fathers. Are you involved in a relationship with someone who is still legally married to someone else or who was recently divorced? If a woman is separated from her husband - but is still legally married to him - or she was still married to him within 300 days of the birth of her child, that man is recognized as the child's father by the court.
For all legal intents and purposes, the man she is married to - or was married to - holds the legal rights to your child, and you are going to need the help of a father's rights lawyer.
Additionally, if the mother chooses, she can block your rights as a father by:
- Refusing to put your name appear on the birth certificate
- Denying you joint custody
- Denying you visitation
If you cannot work this issue out amicably and do what's in the best interest of your child, you may be in for a legal battle. You will need to petition the court to assert your paternal rights. In the meantime, it's important to have an attorney help you register with the state as a "putative" father.
- Putative registry: Alabama has a process to give men seeking to legitimize their paternity some protections under the law. By registering, you gain the right to be notified about any court proceedings regarding your child. This is important because men who do not can be assumed to have relinquished their rights, and a child can be adopted by someone else.
- Paternity petition: If the mother denies that you are the biological father, you'll need to file a complaint with a family court to establish your parental status and rights. The simplest way to remove any doubt, for the court and maybe even for yourself, is to have a DNA test done. These are easily administered by a cotton swab of your and the child's saliva. The terrific thing about DNA tests is that they put all doubts and issues to rest.
It's particularly important that you establish and assert your rights as a father after a child is born out of wedlock. Until you have legal status in the eyes of the court, men have virtually no control over the well-being of their own children. Congrave, the playwright, wrote about a woman's scorn more than 300 years ago, and human emotions have not changed one bit.
If you are trying to establish your rights as a father in Alabama, it's important to get the advice of an attorney experienced in fighting for fathers' rights. Contact the Birmingham Men's Law Firm, LLC.