We have all seen these episodes on Maury Povich but biology or DNA tests is often not the most critical element in Alabama paternity court cases. (A name listed as father on the birth certificate has even less legal significance.)
For instance, in Alabama, regardless of biology, the husband is a “presumptive legal father” if a child is born during the marriage. This is true even if the couple has been separated for years. Absent another “presumptive legal father”, only the husband can dispute that parental standing.
There are several other ways to become a “presumptive legal father” though. For instance, a man can be a presumptive father if:
(1) while the child is under the age of majority,
(2) he receives the child into his home and openly holds out the child as his natural child
(3) or otherwise openly holds out the child as his natural child and establishes a significant parental relationship with the child by providing emotional and financial support for the child.
The Alabama appellate courts have recently held these actions can occur before birth.
(And note: a presumption does not by itself rise to the level of an adjudication of paternity. A court would still need declare who the father is before any rights would spring into play.)
Another way biology may not matter in paternity actions is when the mother and man sign an affidavit of paternity. A mother and a man (regardless of biology), when there is no legal presumptive father, can legally establish paternity by signing and filing an affidavit of paternity with the Office of Vital Statistics.
There are many men walking around as unknowing legal fathers to children. Unfortunately, this means there are often biological fathers and their families who can be denied rights to custody and visitation with their their blood relatives.