Paternity essentially means fatherhood. When a child is born to two parents who are not married, the legal relationship between a father and a child is not automatically established.  If the parties agree, both mother and father may sign an acknowledgment of paternity and file the document with the Alabama Office of Vital Statistics. Such acknowledgment shall be considered a legal finding of paternity of a child and confers upon the acknowledged father the rights and duties of a parent.

In the absence of such acknowledgment or in cases in which it is not clear who the legal father of a child is, the Court will require genetic (DNA) testing that can determine with relative certainty who is the father of a child.  Once the legal father is determined, the court can then make other decisions relating to the child, such as the amount of support to be paid for the child; whether a father is responsible for birth-related medical expenses and/or retroactive support; how the parties will share decision-making responsibilities for the child; and how the parties shall share time with the child.