Fathers often assume that mothers have an advantage in custody matters. If the parents were married, Georgia family courts will carefully consider the ability of each parent to provide a loving, stable home to a child when deciding custody and visitation matters. However, unmarried fathers must take legal steps to establish their parental rights.

Establishing a right to visitation requires more than just acknowledging paternity. If you and your child’s mother did not marry, a Crabapple father’s rights lawyer can help you obtain parental rights for your child.

A skilled child custody attorney can present a compelling case demonstrating that you are an involved parent with the capacity to be your children’s primary caretaker if that is what you desire. Reach out to our team to learn more.

Unmarried Fathers Must Establish Legal Rights

Georgia law differentiates between legal paternity and having parental rights to a child. When an unmarried mother gives birth, she is the child’s sole legal parent and the only one with legal parental rights. This is the case even when she and the father live together, raise the child together, and the father’s name is on the birth certificate.

Establishing Paternity

Establishing paternity establishes a man’s obligation to pay child support. However, it does not confer legal parental rights unless both parents agree to legitimize the child on the acknowledgment of paternity before the child’s first birthday. If they did not do so, a father must legitimize the child to establish rights to visitation and custody.

A man can establish a presumption of paternity by listing his name on the birth certificate as the child’s father. If the name was not listed on the birth certificate when the child was born, either parent or the state could petition the court to add it. Depending on the circumstances, genetic testing might be necessary to confirm an individual’s biological relationship with a child.

Establishing Parental Rights

The Official Code of Georgia §19-7-22 provides a mechanism for an unmarried father to legitimize a child. He must file a motion in the county court where the mother lives. A Crabapple father’s rights attorney can help a father prepare the legitimation petition and present it in court.

A mother could object to legitimation by declaring that the man is not the child’s biological father. The mother also could acknowledge that the man is the biological father but assert that he has lost the opportunity to establish a relationship with the child.

If the mother does not object to legitimation or that objection is overcome, Georgia family courts will issue an order establishing the man as the legal, legitimate father of the child. Once the father has a court order making him a legal parent, he has custody and visitation rights equal to the mother’s.

Family Law is Gender-Neutral

Georgia family courts often favored mothers in child custody and visitation matters in the past, but now family law is officially gender-neutral. Georgia courts consider the children’s best interest when deciding which parent they should live with most of the time.

The presumption is that children benefit from having meaningful relationships with both of their parents. If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan that provides each individual with regular access to the child, Georgia family courts will consider, among other factors, the:

  • Mental and physical health of each parent and the children;
  • Children’s specific needs and each parent’s capacity to meet those needs;
  • Home environment each parent could provide;
  • Bonds of affection between the children, each parent, and other members of each parent’s household;
  • Each parent’s history of family violence, substance abuse, mental illness, or criminal activity;
  • Recommendation of a guardian ad litem, if applicable.

In many cases, giving primary physical custody to the parent who has been acting as the primary caretaker before the couple split up is preferred. When both parents have had a significant role in the day-to-day childcare responsibilities, a dedicated Crabapple attorney can present a compelling case that the children would be best served if the father has primary physical custody or joint parental rights.

Enlist the Help of a Crabapple Attorney to Assert Your Rights as a Father

If you and your co-parent disagree about your role in your children’s lives, seek legal help. Although it might seem like mothers always win custody disputes, family law allows fathers to pursue equal rights.

Whether you need to legitimize your children or seek expanded custody, a Crabapple father’s rights lawyer can help. Schedule a consultation today.

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