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Don't Gamble Away Your Parental Rights: Unwed Father's Rights in Georgia



In Georgia, unwed fathers have specific rights and responsibilities concerning their children. However, these rights are not automatically granted and usually require legal action to be recognized. Here are the key points:


Establishing Paternity


  • Voluntary Acknowledgment: The simplest way for an unwed father to establish paternity is by signing a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the time of the child’s birth. This can be done at the hospital or later through the State Office of Vital Records.


  • Court Order: If there is a dispute or if paternity is not voluntarily acknowledged, either parent can file a paternity action in court. The court may order a DNA test to confirm biological paternity.


Legitimation


  • Legitimation Petition: In Georgia, establishing paternity does not automatically grant an unwed father legal rights to the child. To gain legal rights, an unwed father must file a Petition for Legitimation in court. This process establishes the father's legal relationship with the child and allows the child to inherit from the father. Custody and visitation can also be granted to a father in a legitimation.


Custody and Visitation


  • Custody Rights: After legitimation, an unwed father can seek custody rights. The court will decide based on the best interests of the child, considering factors such as the parents' ability to provide a stable environment, the emotional bonds between parent and child, and the parents' willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent.


  • Visitation: If the father does not obtain custody, he can request visitation rights. Again, the court's primary consideration will be the child's best interests.


Child Support


  • Obligation: Once paternity is established, whether or not the father has filed for legitimation, he may be required to pay child support. The amount is determined based on state guidelines, considering both parents' income and the child's needs.


Name Change


  • Birth Certificate: If paternity is established after the child's birth, the father's name can be added to the child's birth certificate. However, changing the child's last name to the father's requires either a court order or the consent of both parents.


Inheritance Rights


  • Legal Recognition: Legitimation is necessary for the child to have inheritance rights from the father. Without legitimation, the child may not automatically inherit from the father unless explicitly stated in a will.


Summary of Steps for Unwed Fathers:


  1. Establish paternity either voluntarily or through a court order.

  2. File a Petition for Legitimation in court.

  3. Pursue custody or visitation rights if desired.

  4. Understand and fulfill child support obligations.

  5. Ensure the child's birth certificate accurately reflects paternity, and consider any necessary name changes through legal means.


Unwed fathers in Georgia should consult with a family law attorney to navigate these processes effectively and ensure their rights and responsibilities are properly addressed.


Felita Cornog, Esq.

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