When two people have a child together, the love that connects them can seem unbreakable. Unfortunately, if the relationship sours and they decide to split, it can be very challenging for unwed fathers to assert their parental rights. And in Georgia, there is no presumption that the father is related by blood to the child.
Like many states, when a child is born to an unmarried couple in Georgia, the mother automatically gains sole custody, and it is the father who must fight to establish his relationship with the child. For unwed fathers in Athens and surrounding areas who discover that they do not have legal rights to be with their child, understanding the legal steps they must take will ensure that they can remain in their child’s life.
Do I establish paternity or legitimation for my child?
Although establishing paternity does not permit an unmarried father to have custody or visitation rights in Georgia, it does allow his name to appear on the birth certificate, creating financial ties to his child. This means that he will have to pay child support, but it does not give him the legal standing to assert his custodial rights.
For the biological father to be able to do this, he must establish a legal relationship with his offspring by receiving legitimation. Although the mother may dispute legitimation, whether claiming that he is not the father or that he has not been present in the child’s life, it will be up to the court to decide the outcome.
What is the process for creating a connection with my child?
Under Georgia law, the biological father may petition the superior court of the county where the mother resides to legitimate his relationship with the child. The legitimation petition must include the child’s age, sex and name, including a name change for the child if the petitioner requests it. The petition must also name the mother as a party to be served in this civil action. The father may also seek legitimation if he:
- Legally adopted the child.
- Was married to the mother when she was pregnant or came to term.
- Married the legal mother after the child was born.
The court will grant the request if it is in the best interests of the child. Once legitimation is complete, the father may claim custody, parenting time, or visitation rights.
Even though the father’s name on the birth certificate creates the presumption of paternity, genetic testing can verify this blood relationship. The father can also complete a paternity acknowledgment form, which will add his name to the birth certificate of the child.