If a child is born to unmarried parents, the biological father of the child does not automatically have any of the legal rights or duties that go along with fatherhood. "Establishing paternity" refers to the process by which the father/child relationship becomes legally recognized. Once paternity is established, a child gains the same legal rights and privileges that the child would have been entitled to had the child been born during a marriage. These rights and privileges include:
- Child Support: Alabama state law requires both parents to support their child. This is true even when parents are not married to each other. Paternity establishment allows the child to receive financial support from father.
- Medical Insurance: Establishing paternity permits the child to be added to the father's medical insurance.
- Family Health Benefits: A child may need to know if she/he has inherited any special health problems. Paternity establishment may help doctors to research the child's family health history. In case a child needs a donor for a transplant, having access to the father's side of the family is important.
- Benefits: Without paternity establishment, a child is not legally entitled to any of his/her father's benefits including Social Security insurance benefits, inheritance rights, veteran's and other benefits. Once paternity is established, these benefits become immediately available.
- Parental Rights: When paternity is established, the biological father has the same rights as a father of a child born in a marriage. Paternity establishment permits the father to pursue the rights that go along with fatherhood, including custody, visitation, and the right to make decisions regarding child's upbringing.
- Citizenship: Parents provide the child with citizenship and/or nationality. If the father was not born in the United States, his/her place of origin may provide important rights to the child once paternity is legally established.
Apart from the rights and privileges listed above, establishing paternity ultimately gives a child the chance to develop a relationship with the father, and to develop a sense of identity and connection to the "other half" of his or her family. For more information on Alabama paternity laws, contact The Yeatts Law Firm.