What Are Fathers’ Rights in Georgia?
In years past, courts may have ordered that mothers received full custody of children when the parents separated, and the fathers were then responsible for providing support without full visitation rights to their children or being without agency in their children’s lives.
However, Georgia law does not have any writing saying fathers cannot have legal custody over their children and should have a fair amount of time and say in their children’s lives.
Why Establishing Paternity is Critical in Custody Cases
Paternity can be a tricky thing for fathers to deal with in Georgia. For children to married parents, it’s presumed the husband is the father. However, there are extra steps when children are born out of wedlock.
Because the courts will consider what is in the children’s best interests, custody of a child born out of wedlock will generally be granted to the mother. The earlier you can assert your rights, the more favorable the court will look on your side.
How to Establish Paternity and Reach Legitimation
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, unwed parents can sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement form to establish the child’s biological connection with the father. A father can also be “involuntarily” made to acknowledge paternity through a court order.
However, a father seeking custody or furthering his rights must follow up on his “legitimation.” A legitimated father is one legally recognized by the courts. This could be the biological father or an adoptive father. By legitimating, a father will be granted rights such as custody, child support, visitation, and the child can inherit from them.
What Kind of Rights Do Fathers Have in Georgia?
Once a father has been established and legitimated, or in the case of a divorce for a married couple, they will share legal and physical custody rights with the mother of the children. Georgia law states these will be equal, unless outlying matters compel the court to limit custody for one of the parents.
Physical custody determines where the children will primarily live. In contrast, legal custody affects factors like what kind of religion they’re raised in, the school they’ll attend, or the extracurricular activities they’ll participate in.
Primary custody will often be granted to the children’s primary caretaker, the parent the children live with. The courts may ask who cared for the children the most, looking at examples of which parent prepared the child for the day, took care of them when they were ill, went to doctors’ appointments, or assisted them with homework.
Ultimately, the court will consider the children’s best interests before deciding.
What Factors Contribute to the Children’s Best Interests?
A court will look at several factors when considering the children’s best interests. Custody goes beyond which parent makes the most money. The judge will also consider things like:
- The child’s physical safety and welfare
- The bond between the child, their parents, siblings, or other family members
- Household stability
- The ability and attitude of care from both parents
- Mental and physical health of all parties
- Any criminal records or history of domestic violence of either parent
- Cultural or religious needs
- Any recommendations from protective or welfare agencies
- The parents’ wishes, and in some cases, the child’s wishes
How To File For Child Custody in Georgia
To secure your rights as a father, you’ll need to file for custody with your county’s superior court. The custody petition is included in divorce papers, or you can find them through the state of Georgia’s website.
Custody orders remain effective until the child turns 18 but can be modified if extenuating circumstances arise. The parent seeking to change the order must prove a substantial change in their circumstances that could affect the child’s well-being before the court allows any modification.
A Fathers’ Rights Attorney in Georgia can Help You
Custody law is confusing, and even if you think you have a grasp on everything, you could miss something. Hiring an attorney familiar with Georgia’s custody and fathers’ rights laws is your best option for retaining custody of your children or securing visitation.
Once you hire an attorney, they can work with you to organize the evidence you need to support your case, work with your spouse’s attorney throughout the process, and handle matters in court. Although parents’ rights should be considered neutral under Georgia law, some factors can influence the outcome of your case if you’re not careful or choose to handle the case alone.
Call Gentry Law For Assistance with Your Case
Gentry Law is ready to help you with your custody needs. We know parenting alone can be challenging, especially if there is some strife between parents or formerly married couples. We have years of experience, which will benefit you as you work to secure your custody rights as a father.
We’re prepared to hear your story, and we’re ready to help you move forward.
Call (770) 425-5573 or use our online form to schedule your consultation.