Mothers’ Rights and Why They Matter
Parental rights are guaranteed under Georgia law. Married parents assume equal and shared custody and responsibility of their children. For separated parents, custody and visitation rights are decided in the children’s best interest and vary on a case-by-case basis.
However, children born to unmarried parents, or born out of wedlock, have a different expectation for custody under the law. Understanding these distinctions is important to Georgia custody laws.
In Georgia Code §19-7-25, a mother is the only parent entitled to custody of a child born out of wedlock.
That doesn’t prevent the father from seeing his children if the parents agree to visitation, but under the law, the mother will be considered the sole legal parent of the children. This involves both physical and legal custody. The mother will also be able to make final decisions about matters like where the children live, the school they attend, and what faith they’re raised to observe.
Can an Unwed Father Have Parental Rights?
Although a mother to a child born out of wedlock assumes sole custody, the child’s father can assume legal parental rights. This is done so by completing the “legitimation” process. Through legitimation, the father claims their parentage of the child and receives parental rights.
After he’s legitimized, an unwed father can file for custody and visitation rights that are court enforceable.
It’s critical to note that listing the father on the child’s birth certificate does not grant him parenting rights if the child is born out of wedlock. According to Georgia’s laws, signing the father’s name to a birth certificate merely marks him as the “putative” or perceived father.
Legitimation and paternity are not the same concept under the law.
What Does Child Support Look Like for Unwed Mothers in Georgia?
While the law guarantees unwed mothers the sole custody of their children, Georgia law requires both parents to provide support for their children until the child turns 18, graduates from high school, emancipates, or joins the military. This includes unmarried fathers. However, the court may require a paternity test before ordering the father to pay any support.
Do Mothers’ Rights Mean Mothers Get Preferential Treatment?
Unless the parents in question are unmarried when the child is born, parents will have equal footing in custody matters during divorce proceedings. Once a father is legitimized and paternity is established, the parents will have equal standing in front of the court. From there, the child’s best interest determines custody matters.
What Factors Can Affect Custody?
If a father has established paternity and expressed interest in being involved in a child’s life, the court will consider what is best for the child, such as:
- The parents’ lifestyles: the court will consider how the parents live, i.e. how long they spend working, what hours they are awake and asleep, and where they live in regard to the other parent.
- Home environments: what kind of home the child will live in factors into a court’s decision. This involves questions such as if other children are involved or if a house could pose a threat to the child. Courts will consider checking for history of domestic abuse.
- The child’s wishes: if the court considers the child mature enough to comprehend the situation, they may be able to weigh in on the custody matter. However, the court will ultimately have the final say in what’s decided.
Establishing a Parenting Plan
An unwed father is still permitted to visit his children if the mother grants time—even if he has not established paternity or been legitimized by the court. However, unwed mothers should consider drafting a parenting plan to enforce those visitations.
If the father is legitimized and paternity is established, he can seek custody rights. The visitation plan may become court enforceable. Parenting plans, also known as custody agreements, provide a guideline or schedule for parents to follow.
Parents can draft the plan and present it to a judge. If the judge approves, they can create a final order.
A Georgia Custody Attorney Can Help You
Custody law can be confusing. If you’re trying to protect your rights alone, you should consider turning to an experienced attorney. They can help you gather evidence to protect your mothers’ rights and help find the best solution to your problem. A lawyer can also help build your argument for sole custody, especially if your child’s other parent is aggressively demanding visitation or joint custody rights.
Call Gentry Law for Help with Your Custody Case
Gentry Law is ready to assist you with your custody case. We recognize that parenting on your own can be challenging, especially when your child’s other parent is being stubborn. Our years of experience can benefit you in your case. We’re ready to hear your story and help you move forward.