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Fathers of children born out of wedlock: what you must know

The laws regarding paternity and custody can vary state-by-state. In Georgia, if an unmarried couple has a child, the mother is the only one entitled to custody unless the father legitimizes the child by establishing paternity. This means that if you want to be recognized as the child’s father, you must actively seek to file for paternity.

Why does this matter?

If you are a father in Georgia and you are not married to the mother of your child, the state does not give you custody rights automatically. This means that, unless the mother is willing, you have no rights to see the child or take responsibility for them.

Paternity provides you with many legal benefits in addition to being the biological father of your child. The state grants parents access to certain social services programs, like state-sponsored health insurance and social security benefits.

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, establishing paternity means the law declares you the child’s father, which means you have equal rights and responsibilities as the mother does in deciding about the child’s upbringing.

How do I establish paternity?

If you choose to establish paternity, you can-

  • Sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity,
  • File a petition for paternity in court.

It seems simple enough. However, in some cases, you may run into challenges. If the mother does not know who the child’s father is, this may present a problem and you may have to wait and undergo DNA testing to prove that you are, in fact, the biological father of the child.

Establishing paternity, or gaining parental rights, makes you an official biological parent. It is important to take your time to think about this long and hard because once you establish paternity, there is no going back. If you want to parent your child, you can opt for one of the two options above to prove that you are the child’s father and begin your role as a parent.



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