Can a Paternity Test Cause a Father to Lose Custody and Visitation?
If a paternity test proves that you are not the father of a child, your rights to custody and visitation could be at risk.
When parents are no longer living together or chose to file for divorce, matters pertaining to children can be hotly contested. For fathers in this situation, paternity is a central issue. If testing indicates that you are not the child’s biological father, you could lose your rights to be a part of any child custody and visitation plans that are made.
Determining Paternity in Georgia
There are two basic types of paternity. Biological paternity involves the natural father, who is related to the child by blood and DNA. A legal father, such as in the case of adoption or legitimation, is typically named or assumed so by the courts. There are three basic methods for determining paternity in Georgia:
- Paternity through marriage: If a child is born while a couple are married, the husband is automatically assumed to be the legal father.
- Paternity through voluntary acknowledgement: If the parents are unmarried when the child is born, the man can establish himself as the legal father of the child, by both parents signing a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form at or near the time of a child’s birth.
- Paternity through testing: By extracting a small amount of DNA from a swab of the cheek, a man’s DNA can be tested against the baby’s and the mothers to determine if he is the biological father.
In addition to these three methods, paternity can also be established through adoption. By filing a petition with the court and undergoing the required proceedings, a man can be declared as the legal/adoptive father of the child.
Unfortunately, in Georgia, a father who has established paternity for his child, but has not established legal rights to the child, is unable to pursue custody and visitation issues.
Under Section 19-7-25, only the mother of a child born out of wedlock is entitled to custody of the child, unless the father legitimates the child, as provided for under Section 19-7-22.
Even if both parents signed the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form, and the father’s name is on the child’s birth certificate, the father must still file a Petition for Legitimation with a Superior Court, if he wants custody of the child, or visitation with the child. Otherwise, the mother may exercise all parental power over the child.
Paternity and Your Custody and Visitation Rights
In matters pertaining to divorce and breakups involving single parents, both parties have the right and the responsibility to remain a part of the child’s life in the aftermath. Under the Georgia Code, the court will look at numerous factors in awarding custody and visitation, which include:
- The current and previous relationship between each parent and the child;
- The proven ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs;
- Each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other in creating a parenting plan; and
- Any factors such as criminal behavior or domestic violence, which could put the child’s safety and well-being at risk.
If the couple was married at the time the child was born, both parents are automatically entitled to be a part of any custody and visitation proceedings. However, if the man is not the biological, legitimized, or legally adoptive father, and the mother insists on paternity testing, the man’s rights to child custody and visitation could be in jeopardy.
Get Legal Guidance from Our Gwinnett County Child Custody and Visitation Attorneys
At Zimmerman & Associates, we provide the trusted legal guidance and aggressive representation you need to protect your rights in child custody and visitation matters. To discuss the options in your situation, call or contact our Gwinnett County family law attorneys today to schedule a free consultation.