Cara Sprouse Rowe, Attorney at Law - Augusta Family Law and Divorce Attorney
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What rights do unmarried parents have to their children?

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2021 | Uncategorized |

Custody laws involving parents who were never married can vary from state to state. In the state of Georgia, the mother has sole custody until the father establishes a legal relationship to the child.

How does a father establish a legal relationship?

Just being a child’s biological father doesn’t give you automatic rights to the child in the state of Georgia. In order to be considered a child’s father, you need to have an established legal relationship.

This legal relationship is called legitimation. The biological father of a child can try to establish a legal relationship through legitimation. While paternity doesn’t give a father any rights to visitation or custody, it’s still needed in order to start the process of legitimation. After paternity is established, the father may file a legitimation action in the mother’s county of residence.

What to know about the legitimation process

Legitimation can potentially give the biological father rights to custody, parenting time, and visitation rights. However, the mother may challenge legitimation in two ways:

– Challenging the claims to paternity
– Explaining how the father has lost the opportunity to develop a relationship with their child

The court will look at any challenges brought forth by the mother. It’s up to the court to decide whether the challenges have any weight to them.

What information do you need to file for legitimation?

In order to start the legitimation process in Georgia, you must file a petition with the court in the county that the mother resides. This petition must include:

– The child’s name
– The child’s age
– The child’s biological sex
– Any name changes that the petitioner desires for the child

The mother must also be named as a parenting party and served papers so that she is given the chance to be heard. Any legal parent who is not the child’s biological father must also be served and given a chance to be heard in the court of law.

If you’re considering filing for legitimation or suing for custody, it’s important to have a lawyer. An experienced child custody lawyer may offer guidance throughout the process.