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What Rights Does A Father Have In Georgia?

by Sharon Jackson  on November 5, 2020 under 

In Georgia, being the biological father of a child does not always mean you have legal parenting rights. Georgia law actually distinguishes between biological and legal parentage. As a dad, you may have concerns about your parental rights, especially when Family Law matters come up such as divorce, child custody, and child support. Here’s an overview of fathers’ rights in Georgia, and how you can protect your interests in a Family Law case.

Legal Fatherhood In Georgia

Under Georgia law, a person is presumed to be the legal father of a child if he was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth or nine months before the birth. However, there are plenty of family situations that diverge from the traditional confines of marriage.

A common scenario is that the biological parents of a child are not married when the child is born. For the unmarried dad, it is important to be aware of two concepts: paternity and legitimation. Paternity refers to your biological fatherhood of the child, typically established by having your name on the birth certificate or confirming it via a DNA test. On the other hand, legitimation is the legal recognition of your fatherhood.

Establishing paternity does not automatically make you a legal dad. To establish yourself as the legal father of the child, you have to complete the process of legitimation. Only when the child is legitimated as yours can you claim parental rights and responsibilities.

In some cases, the mom is married during the child’s birth, but her husband is not the biological dad of the baby. (We have seen this happen due to extramarital affairs.) The law tells us that the husband is still recognized as the child’s legal father, unless this is contested. It is up to the biological father to establish paternity and request the court to legitimate the child. However, this is usually an uphill battle, especially if the mom’s husband asserts his legal parentage.

Fatherhood In Georgia: Child Custody And Child Support

In Family Law cases, Georgia courts have no automatic preference between mothers and fathers. Both parents have equal legal footing when fighting for their parental rights. One condition, of course, is that the dad has to be recognized by law as the legal father before he can assert any parental rights in court.

Can a Georgia father have child custody? Of course, as long as he successfully shows the court that it would be in the child’s best interests. To determine this, the judge will examine several factors surrounding the child’s life and relationships with each parent. A dad will have greater chance of getting a favorable custody decision if he has been a responsible and involved parent to the child even before the custody case began.

Note, though, that courts prefer for both parents to jointly raise the child, whenever possible. If the mom becomes the custodial parent (the parent with more than 50 percent of custody), the dad is likely given ample parenting time, also known as visitation rights.

Is a father always required to pay child support in Georgia? Not always. Georgia child support is determined based on two primary factors: who is the custodial parent of the child, and how much each parent earns. Either parent (mom or dad) may be obligated to pay child support if he/she is the non-custodial parent or has higher income than the other.

Issues With Paternity And Legitimation

Questions on parental rights become complicated if the dad is unwed to the mom, or if the child is not legitimated. Can a biological father have custody or visitation rights? Will he have to pay child support? Consider these rights and responsibilities of unwed fathers in Georgia:

  • Legitimation is needed for parenting rights. Remember that an unmarried father has to legitimate his child before he can assert his parental rights. These rights include custody, visitation, making decisions for the child, accessing the child’s medical history, and leaving an inheritance to the child. Without legitimation, only the mom (and the legally presumed father, if any) will have these parental rights.
  • Legitimation does not guarantee child custody. While legitimation allows an unmarried dad to fight for child custody in court, the judge will still examine the unique factors of the case before making a custody decision. Each parent must show the court that granting them child custody will be in the child’s best interests.
  • Paternity is enough to get child support obligations. Even if the child is not legitimated, the biological father may be required to pay financial support for child-rearing. This usually happens if the child’s mother goes to court seeking child support and has positive proof of paternity. The court will likely grant her a support award even if the dad has not legally acknowledged the child.

What this means is that it is crucial for an unmarried dad to legitimate his child if he hopes to protect his rights as a father. It is also wise to have the legal guidance of a Family Law attorney. Dads can be disadvantaged if they make a mistake navigating the legal maze that is Family Law, but a competent attorney can protect them from costly missteps.

Contact A Family Law Attorney You Can Trust

If you have concerns about your parenting situation in Gwinnett County or surrounding areas, call Attorney Sharon Jackson. She has effectively fought for the rights of fathers in cases of paternity, legitimacy, child custody, and child support. Call Attorney Jackson today at (678)436-3636 to schedule your consultation. You may also contact her through our online form.

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