If you have a child in Georgia but are not married to the child's mother, you have NO PARENTAL RIGHTS to that child whatsoever under Georgia law. It doesn't matter that you signed the birth certificate. It doesn't matter than you have lived with the child or have a relationship with your child. It doesn't matter if you pay child support. If you are not or have not been married to the mother, your child is born "out of wedlock" and is not legitimate. You have legal obligations to your child, but NO LEGAL RIGHTS. If the mother is still legally married to another man and has a child with you, the HUSBAND is the legal father if the child is born while they are married! This lack of legal status usually becomes a problem when people split up and daddy wants to have custody of or regular visitation with his child. It's good so long as mama lets you, but if you make her mad, she can say no and there's nothing you can do about it - unless you change your legal status
Change your legal status
If you at some point marry the child's mother AND acknowledge the child as yours, this may be enough to establish that you are the child's legal father. If not, you must file a petition to legitimate your child in the Superior Court of the County in which you or the child resides. This will allow the court to enter an order decreeing that you are the legal father of your child, giving the child your last name, and giving your child the ability to inherit from you as if he or she was born in wedlock.
Protect your legal status
In Georgia, there is a "Putative Father Registry" where you can register your name and that of the mother and the child so that you will receive notice in the event anyone ever attempts to adopt your child. This is a very important step for you to take, and it seems that very few fathers know about it!
Enforce and enjoy your legal status
So, you file for legitimation of your child, and get an order for visitation or secondary physical custody. You can now enforce that order if the mother decides to play games with your parenting time. You now have standing to seek custody if you believe you can prove to the court that it is in the best interest of your child to live with you. Your child needs BOTH parents. Spend quality time with your child, keep your contact regular, support him or her financially. Protect your rights to your child! Once they are gone, they are gone forever.
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