Unmarried Father's Rights in Georgia

By Teo Spengler

Updated July 23, 2018

father with two children on lap image by Pavel Losevsky from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

If you get to pick the state in which you will become an unwed father, put Georgia at the bottom of the list. Its laws distinguish between biological fathers and legally recognized fathers, giving astonishingly little protection to an unwed father's rights in Georgia to see his children and be part of their lives. Even if you are listed on the birth certificate as a child's father, you do not have an automatic right to custody or visitation. In Georgia, the mother has all parental rights over a child born out of wedlock, and the father has none unless he legitimizes the child.

Georgia Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

When a married woman bears a child, little thought is given to paternity. The law presumes that her husband is the child's father, and the two share custody rights. Unmarried parents are a different case entirely. The child's mother has 100 percent of the parental rights over the child. She has authority to make decisions about who can and cannot see the child, where the child is to live, the schools the child will go to, and all of the details of the child's life. An unwed father's rights to his child are few and far between.

This may not seem terribly important to an unmarried father, as long as he stays with the child's mother. She lives with him, so the child lives with him. She loves him and encourages him to spend time with the child. But once the couple has issues, the mother can take the child, refuse to allow the father to see the child and even move to another part of the country.

Georgia Custody Laws for Unmarried Parents

An unwed father may think that he is safe because he signed a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form with the child's mother. On this form, the parents acknowledge that the biological father is also the child’s legal father. That is enough, if done in the hospital, to get the father's name on the birth certificate, make him liable for child support and make sure he gets notice if someone wants to adopt the child. But will it give him the right to custody or visitation? No it won't, unless he takes it a step further and asks a court to legitimate the child.

Under Georgia law, you can legitimate a child in four ways. Georgia puts high stock in marriage, so it is no surprise that two involve getting married. You make your child legitimate if you marry the mother before she gives birth or marry the mother after the birth and recognize the child as your own.

Aside from that, you can legitimate the child by legally adapting her. More realistically, you can file an action for legitimization in court. Once you get the court order, you have the right to seek visitation and even custody. Without it, you have no rights along those lines.