For unwed parents in Alabama, a child support obligation can begin as soon as the child is born. This is the case in every other state – or, at least, it was. For the first time, a state has passed a law giving women the right to pursue a form of child support while they are still pregnant.
Utah’s governor signed the bill into law in early April. For pregnant women who pursue it, the law gives them the right to go to court to compel the man who impregnated them to pay half their pregnancy-related healthcare costs, including health insurance premiums.
Two questions about prenatal child support
This raises an interesting paternity question. In Alabama, when a married woman gives birth, the law presumes that her husband is the father, but paternity testing can prove the truth when the child’s true paternity is in question. There is also a strong presumption that a mother’s husband or recently divorced ex-husband is the father under Utah law. But paternity testing is not possible while a fetus is in utero.
The law contains a provision that states a possible father does not have to pay their share of prenatal medical costs until after the infant is born and doctors can prove paternity. Of course, this could mean that the mother-to-be will have to cover those bills themselves until after delivery.
More importantly, this law raises the question of when a noncustodial father’s financial responsibilities should begin. Should child support begin the moment the woman discovers she is pregnant? The point at which the fetus is considered viable? Or not until the baby is born?
Knowing your parental rights and obligations
Though child support law has not changed in Alabama in this regard, the fact that Utah has made this move could inspire lawmakers in this state. As a current or expectant parent, you need to know what your rights and responsibilities are.