How to Get Parental Rights as a Father if You are Not Married to the Child’s Mother
In Georgia, a voluntary declaration of paternity or a DNA test showing your genetic relationship to the child is not enough; if you were not married to the child’s mother when the child was born, you must legally legitimate the child before you can have any right to parenting time or decision-making authority about the child’s upbringing.
Georgia’s family court system aims to help children have a strong relationship with both of their parents, even if the parents are not married to each other. When couples divorce, the court issues a parenting plan, a court order detailing the parents’ responsibilities toward any children born or adopted during the marriage who were minors when the parents divorced. The parenting plan indicates how much physical custody (how many days of parenting time per year) and how much legal custody (childrearing decisions about which the parent has the final say) each parent gets. If the mother is unmarried when the child is born, the default option is that she has 100% of the physical and legal custody. If you are not married to your child’s mother, you must go through the legal process of legitimating your child before the court recognizes your parental rights. The Norcross child custody lawyers at Zimmerman & Associates can help you do this.
What is the Difference Between Paternity Testing, Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, and Legitimation?
The family courts in Georgia offer various processes of establishing relationships between fathers and children; each of these has its own legal purpose:
- DNA paternity testing involves taking a small sample of skin cells by touching a cotton swab to the inner cheek of the father and the child, and then comparing the DNA in the samples to see if they are similar enough to denote a parent-child relationship. DNA paternity testing is a prerequisite for establishing legal paternity. The results of the DNA test do not, however, affect your right to become the child’s legal father. You can become the child’s legal father even if you are not the biological father, but you cannot if you have not tested to find out whether or not you are. Likewise, if a man was married to the mother when the child was born, and a DNA test later shows that he is not the biological father, he does not lose his status as legal father.
- Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity is where both parents file paperwork declaring that the man is the child’s father. After the court accepts the form, the state will issue a birth certificate for the child, listing the man as the child’s father. It does not, however, give the father a right to parenting time.
- Legitimation requires the parents to file a Petition for Legitimation. After the court accepts the petition, the man becomes the child’s legal father, and he has the right to request parenting time. Once you legitimate a child, you have parental rights, as well as financial obligations, toward the child until the child reaches adulthood. This does not change if you and the mother break up or if you get married.
Contact Zimmerman & Associates About Establishing Legal Paternity in Georgia
An Atlanta child custody lawyer can help you legitimate your child so that you have the right to shared custody of the child. Contact Zimmerman & Associates in Norcross, Georgia to set up a consultation.