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I’m an unmarried parent in Georgia: What are my parental rights?

I'm an unmarried parent in Georgia: What are my parental rights? | Farmer, Farmer & Brown Family Law Firm

My partner and I aren’t married but we have children together: what are our legal parental rights in Georgia? 

If you have a child or plan to have a child outside of marriage, here is some basic information about parental rights for unmarried couples in Georgia. Georgia courts make parental legal decisions based on the best interest of the child. Unmarried couples often make decisions jointly about the care and upbringing of their child.

Co-Parenting Plan
If a couple does not plan to marry and but does plan to have children, a parenting plan or child custody agreement can be created by a family law attorney. A parenting plan is a contract identifying how you will make decisions to raise the child, and how decisions about child support, alimony, and child custody will be made if you end your relationship. 

Family law attorneys help individuals and couples understand their rights and the law. In Georgia, unlike many other states, a signed parenting plan does not guarantee that the plan must be adhered to. If a couple cannot negotiate their co-parenting plan together, they may decide to go to court to have a judge determine child custody, visitation and support decisions.

In determining what is in the best interest of the child, the court will consider many factors including the child’s age, the ability of a parent to provide for the basic care for the child, financial support, involvement in the child’s daily life, the parent’s home, work and mental stability, child, criminal history and and other factors presented to the court. 

Mother’s Rights in Georgia

For couples who have children together but are not married, according to Georgia law if a child is born to an unmarried mother, the mother is automatically awarded legal and physical custody of the child. 

Georgia state law does not automatically recognize father’s rights. 

Father’s Rights in Georgia

Establish Paternity 
The father of a child who is not married to that’s child’s mother must establish paternity so that he can have visitation or custody of his child. Establishing paternity will also create legal responsibilities, such as child support. There are two primary ways to establish paternity:

  1. Be present when your child is born and add your name to the birth certificate and complete a voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity Form.
  2. File a legitimation petition in court in the county where the mother and child reside.

Assert Your Rights 
Once a father has established his paternity, he can petition the court to have his parental rights enforce:

  • Visitation: If you are father who is not married to your child’s mother, if you have established paternity you can request that the court grant you visitation rights with your child, even if the child’s mother does not agree. The judge will rule based on the best interest of the child.
  • Custody: Legally recognized father’s who are not married to their child’s mother can ask the court to grant you full or part-time legal and physical custody of your child. The judge will rule based on the best interest of the child.
  • Child Support: Fathers who have legal full or part-time custody of their child may be entitled to child support to provide food, shelter, education, health care and other necessities, based on the best interest of the child.

Parental Rights Disputes in Georgia

If you and your ex-partner do not agree how your child will be raised – including visitation, custody and child support – you may need to go to court to have your parental rights established. If your case goes to court, neither the mother nor the legal father will be favored in court: you have equal parental rights. A court decision will be made based on the best interest of the child.

If your parental rights are being denied, you should retain the services of an experienced family law attorney to ensure you and your child are protected. Farmer, Farmer & Brown Law Firm can review your case and provide you with representation to get the best possible outcome in your parental rights case; call us for a consultation.

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