Child Custody for Unmarried Parents in Marietta

An increasing number of families are headed by couples who never formally marry. When these couples decide to split, there is no need for them to take legal steps to untangle their relationship. However, they must make arrangements for their children.

Child custody for unmarried parents in Marietta is legally more complicated than it would be if the parents were married. Contact one of our experienced child custody attorneys to learn about how the law will apply to your situation.

Custody Rights Depend on Legitimation

When a child is born to unwed parents, the father can voluntarily establish his paternity if both parents sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity. Doing so puts the man’s name on the child’s birth certificate and gives the child the right to inherit from the father and receive certain benefits. However, the father does not gain parental rights by acknowledging paternity.

Georgia distinguishes between children who were born to a married couple and children who were born to unwed parents. A child of unwed parents has only one legal parent, their mother. A father who wants legal parental rights, which include the right to custody, must legitimize the child.

Marriage between the parents would legitimize any children the parents have. If the parents remain unmarried, a father must seek a court order of legitimation to gain parental rights. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated §19-7-22 allows a man who can prove he is the biological father to legitimate a child by court order. A Marietta family attorney can advise a parent about the process of legitimation and its impact on custody matters for unmarried parents in a specific case.

Child Custody Based on the Children’s Best Interests

When the children of the relationship have been legitimized, child custody matters are resolved in the same way they would be if the parents were married. Each parent has an equal right to legal custody and time with the children. However, there are complications that could arise due to the parents’ unmarried status.

Whenever a judge decides a matter that directly impacts children, the children’s best interests must be the judge’s primary consideration. A Marietta attorney can help an unmarried parent compile evidence and craft persuasive arguments showing that their desired outcome for custody is in the children’s best interests. For example, if a father delays legitimizing his children, a court could infer that the father has little interest in being an involved and responsible parent. Similarly, if the unmarried parents did not live together and the father did not take an active role in the children’s upbringing, a judge might find it is not in the children’s best interest to provide a previously absent father significant parenting time.

Negotiated Parenting Plans Usually Work Best

Many unmarried couples promptly legitimize their children and raise them together as if they were married. These families benefit when the parents can work cooperatively to establish a parenting plan.

The law requires parents living separately to have a plan that ensures appropriate contact with each parent. The plans should be detailed and include a:

  • Timesharing schedule;
  • Description of which parent is responsible for transportation on each visit day;
  • Designation of decision-making authority to one or both parents;
  • Note how parents will resolve disputes between themselves.

Even when the parents agree on a custody plan, a judge will independently review the plan to ensure it is in the children’s best interests. Unmarried couples who work with a mediator or Marietta attorney to create their parenting plan can help ensure their plan will pass the best interests test.

Contact a Marietta Attorney About Custody Concerns for Unmarried Parents

Child custody issues are often emotional and difficult to resolve, but they become especially complex when parents are unmarried. You need sound legal advice to navigate these issues.

The family attorneys at our firm have extensive experience working on child custody for unmarried parents in Marietta. We can help you reach your custody goals. Get started by calling today.

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