In our society, it is getting more and more common to have children born out of wedlock.
If you’re a dad and you were never married to your child’s mom, it’s really important to know the answer to the question: ‘what rights do unmarried fathers have in Georgia?’ The answer is: not a lot.
Unless you are declared to be the legal father of your child by a court order, you have no rights to visit with them, no right to make decisions on what happens to them, and no right to other parenting roles – except you have the right to pay child support to the mom. That’s it.
Therefore, understanding the rights of unmarried fathers in Georgia is crucial for any man seeking to establish a relationship with his child. In Georgia, an unmarried father has certain legal rights, but as we’ve seen above, they require specific actions to be fully recognized and protected.
Let’s take a look at how to exercise those rights in the Peach State.
Child Custody Laws in Georgia
The child custody laws in Georgia are designed to protect the best interests of the child. They are not based on the marital status of the parents, but on their ability to provide a nurturing, stable environment for the child.
The court takes into consideration several factors including the child’s age, the child’s relationship with each parent, and the ability of each parent to care for the child.
Now, a parent is not just a biological parent – the parent must be a legal parent in order to be considered for custody of their child.
In Georgia, a legal parent is defined as an individual who has either given birth to the child, legally adopted the child, or been recognized by the courts as the child’s biological or adoptive parent, thereby possessing rights and responsibilities towards the child’s upbringing.
For dads, this means either being married to mom when the child is born, marrying mom later on in the child’s life, or by “legitimation“ which we’ll cover in the next section.
Custody Laws in Georgia for Unmarried Parents 2023
In 2023, the custody laws for unmarried parents in Georgia remain focused on the best interest of the child – just like for married or divorcing parents.
For an unmarried father to obtain legal rights to his child, he must first establish paternity.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not done by signing the child’s birth certificate. All that does is create a presumption that you are the child’s biological father.
In order to get legal rights, unmarried fathers must bring a Petition for Legitimation in Superior Court, be declared the biological father of the child (usually done by DNA testing or by consent of the parties), and then be officially “legitimated” and declared the child’s legal father by court order.
You don’t have to wait until your child’s mother keeps you from seeing your child – we often encourage happily unmarried parents to go ahead and get the father legitimated. This small but important step protects everyone involved – mom, dad, and child.
If the Father Signs the Birth Certificate Does He Have Rights Georgia
If a father signs the birth certificate in Georgia, he is acknowledging that he is the biological father of the child.
However, this does not automatically grant him legal rights to custody or visitation if he’s not otherwise married to the child’s mother.
He must still establish legal paternity through the courts by legitimation to ensure his rights are protected.
How Long Does a Father Have to Establish Paternity in Georgia
There is no set time limit for a father to establish paternity in Georgia.
However, the sooner it is established, the better for all parties involved.
Establishing paternity early allows the father to assert his rights, participate in important decisions about the child’s upbringing, and helps establish a bond between the father and the child.
Additionally, if you wait too long, the court can actually deny your request to be declared the legal parent of your child.
If you want to know more about your specific situation, contact a local family law attorney near you who focuses on father‘s rights cases.
Can Unmarried Father Take Child from Mother Georgia
An unmarried father cannot simply take a child from the mother without legal custody in Georgia.
If paternity has been established and the father has been granted visitation or custody rights by the court, then he can spend time with his child according to the court’s order.
Any attempt to violate the custody arrangement could lead to legal consequences.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your child, best practice is to initiate court action seeking to be legitimated and for custody of your child – or to contact the appropriate authorities to investigate the child’s situation, such as DFCS.
Can a Father Get Full Custody in Georgia
Yes, a father can get full custody in Georgia, but only if he is the legal father.
The standard for awarding full custody is always the best interest of the child. The court will consider factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to care for the child, the stability of each parent’s home environment, and other relevant factors.
Neither the child’s father nor mother has any “de facto” right to legal custody. The court starts everyone on the same playing field, and evaluates all factors of the case to determine what is in the child’s best interest for which parent to have custody.
While unmarried fathers in Georgia do have rights, it is crucial that they establish paternity and work through the legal system to protect those rights.
If you have more questions or want more information, we always recommend that unmarried fathers seeking custody or visitation rights consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to guide them through this process.