Having a child is often one of the biggest events of a person’s life. New parents look forward to bonding with their child and anticipate a bright future raising the child. Unfortunately, sometimes a divorce or break-up results in parents raising a child separately and going through the custody process.
Married parents have equal rights to a child
The question most parents ask at the beginning of the custody process involves what custody rights they have. Many parents assume that each parent starts out with an equal right to a child. However, in Georgia, this is only true if the parents are married.
Under Georgia law, married parents automatically have an equal right to custody of a child. During the divorce proceedings, a custody order will ultimately be entered that sets out a specific custody schedule.
The mother has all custody rights if the parents are unmarried
The situation becomes more complicated when the parents are not married. In these situations, the mother automatically has sole legal and physical custody of the child. This means that the mother has the right to make all decisions regarding the child’s upbringing and to always have the child physically in her custody.
Recent statistics show that nearly half of all children born in Georgia are born to parents who are not married. This means that there is a high number of children born in Georgia to fathers who start out with no custody rights.
An unmarried father who wants to obtain custody rights must legitimate his child. This means that he must file a petition for legitimation in the county the child’s mother lives in. If the mother lives outside of Georgia, but cannot be located after the father makes a good faith attempt to find her, the petition may be filed in the Georgia county the father lives in.
The father may include a request for custody in his petition for legitimation. The court then has the power to declare the father and child’s relationship to be legitimate, giving the father the same legal rights as the mother. The court can also include a custody schedule in the order. The schedule will be based on several factors the court determines to be in the best interest of the child.
Georgia fathers or mothers who need help navigating the custody process can benefit from guidance and advice from a legal professional.