Fathers in a divorce or child custody case are often unsure of their rights. Many fathers are worried that they may not get as much time with their kids as they want, or that they may have a child support obligation that is unaffordable. However, this is not true.
If you are getting a divorce or are fighting a child custody case, a Cobb County father’s rights lawyer can help you protect your rights. A team of compassionate family attorneys can guide you throughout the legal process to help you reach an arrangement that works for you and your children.
Fathers have equal rights to child custody, visitation, or support as the mother. While Georgia law used to prefer mothers over fathers when it came to the care of young children, state law today puts both parents on equal footing.
Georgia expects that parents will work together to share custody as equally as possible given their unique circumstances. Unless there are credible allegations of one parent abusing or neglecting the children, neither parent should receive preference over the other.
Both parents also share an equal obligation to support their children. In general, the parent who has the children for the majority of the time receives child support, while the person with less time pays it. This means that if a father has primary physical custody of the children, he has the right to receive support from the mother. If the father pays child support, he may be able to reduce his payment obligations if he takes more visitation time with his children.
Even if parents cannot practically share full physical custody of their children, they should be able to share legal custody. Shared legal custody gives both parents an equal say in important decisions regarding their children’s lives. This includes where they attend school, what religion they practice, and any extracurricular activities they participate in.
Before a father can receive custody or visitation with his children, he must establish his paternity and legitimize himself as the legal father of the child. When a father was married to the mother of his children at the time of their birth, the law assumes that he is the biological and legal parent. However, if the parents were not married, the father will generally have to establish his paternity legally.
An unmarried father can prove his paternity in one of two ways. First, both he and the mother can sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity. This form may be completed at the hospital when a child was born, or the parents may file it later with the State Office of Vital Records. By signing this form, the father is put on the Georgia Putative Father Registry, which notifies unmarried fathers if another person wants to adopt their child.
The second way an unmarried father can prove his relationship to a child is to file a paternity action in court. This allows a mother, father, or a representative from the Division of Child Support Services to seek a court order declaring a person to be the father of a child. If there is doubt as to the father’s biological paternity, the court may order genetic testing.
Establishing paternity is different than legitimation. Paternity acknowledges that a man is the biological father of the child. Legitimation establishes the biological father as the legal father of the child. While a biological father with paternity can be required to pay child support, only the legal father can exercise parenting rights. Often, fathers in Cobb County file an action for paternity and legitimation at the same time. See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-20.
Fathers play a crucial role in their children’s lives, and a Cobb County father’s rights attorney from our firm can help you protect that precious relationship. If you want more time with your children, it is essential to take time to learn about your rights. Schedule an appointment with a member of our team today.
Atlanta Divorce Law Group