The idea of a paternity suit likely conjures images of, “You are not the father!” from the Maury Show. The reality, however, is that paternity suits, and where they are heard, can be very complex. I have represented many alleged fathers only to find out later, they are not the father. A paternity test is a lot cheaper than 19 years of child support for a child that is not yours.
In Ex parte C.L.L.M., heard in Limestone County, the court addressed the appropriate venue for a paternity suit. In March 2017, the mother gave birth to the child in a hospital in Madison County. During her hospital stay, the mother signed forms giving custody of the child to an adoption agency.
That same day, the father contacted the organization, objecting to the adoption proceedings. A week later the father filed a written notice of his intent to claim paternity of the child and two days after that he filed a petition in the Limestone Circuit Court seeking to establish paternity, to obtain custody of the child, and to receive child support.
On April 12, 2017, the prospective adoptive parents initiated an action to adopt the child in the Shelby probate court. The father responded with his paternity test results, which indicated a 99.99% probability that he is the child’s biological father.
In August 2017, an attorney representing the child filed a motion to transfer the action to Tuscaloosa County, based on the fact that the child had been living with the adoptive parents in Tuscaloosa County since the child’s birth. The father objected and filed a request for a guardian ad litem to be appointed for the child. The trial court transferred the case to Tuscaloosa County.
After this transfer, the father filed for a petition for writ of mandamus (an order to correct an abuse of discretion) where he argued that a five-month-old child does not have standing nor the capacity to petition a court to change venue unless his incapacity is cured by the appointment of a guardian ad litem.
The court disagreed. Even though the child was not a named party to the proceedings, the child is a “permissible” party to the parentage proceedings.
In terms of the father’s actual argument relating to transferring the case from Limestone County to Tuscaloosa County, the father did not cite the appropriate authority. Venue of a paternity action is proper in the county where the child resides (Tuscaloosa) or where the defendant resides (Limestone).
Additionally, when the father went to address Tuscaloosa County as an inconvenient forum, he did not sufficiently address the doctrine and thus waived the issue. The court kept the venue in Tuscaloosa County and denied the petition for writ of mandamus.
The important issue is that a child does have a right to an attorney and to make legal objections at a parentage proceeding, such as a paternity suit. Additionally, if a party doesn’t address an issue adequately, the court will dismiss their claim.
It is important to seek an experienced child custody attorney who understands the realities of Alabama custody law. If you need a child custody lawyer, contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 656-0044for help with your custody or paternity case.