Things happen … life happens … things rarely happen as planned.
In the event of an unplanned pregnancy, in a non-marriage relationship, one of the first questions a mother may ask is, “How am I going to take care of my child?”
Thankfully, our legal system has taken into account the need for the biological father in these circumstances to “step-up-to-the-plate” and bear some of the financial responsibility.
Here are some basic questions an unmarried mother may be asking about child support:
1) What is the child support process from start to finish?
In your situation, you would start with a paternity action. If the court determines that he is the father, then child support should be automatic. The amount of child support depends on several factors; the most significant being his reported income.
2) If the biological father pays child support, does that give him rights for custody/visitation?
I wouldn’t say that paying child support gives the biological father a “right” to custody/visitation, however it does open the door. The Alabama law that governs all this is Alabama Code Section 26-17-636(g) (available here: http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/CodeOfAlabama/1975/coatoc.htm)
3) Do we have to wait to start the child support process until after birth?
No. It can be initiated prior to birth. See Alabama Code Section 26-17-611.
4) If the father decides he wants to forfeit his parental rights then does he get out of paying child support completely?
No, it’s not that easy to get out of child support. Case law has gone so far as to state that, even if you placed the child for adoption, he could still be on the hook for child support.
5) Should I put the father’s name on the birth certificate?
Yes, if you can. However, the hospital is supposed to require an affidavit from the father acknowledging his paternity. This is governed by Alabama Code Section 26-17-315. However, from my experience, I’m not sure that all hospitals require the affidavit. Having his name on the birth certificate, in my opinion, definitely makes your case stronger for the paternity action.