This guide will inform you, as an unwed father, on the steps you need to take to legally get visitation and custody rights to your child.
Are you sure you are the biological father?
If there is no doubt in your mind that you are the biological father this section may not be for you. If however you are not certain, the first thing you need to do is contact an attorney who can file a petition for paternity on your behalf. You may wonder if you can do this yourself (aka acting pro se). Yes you can, but you always want to hire an attorney to make sure that filings are done at the correct time and in the correct way.
Paternity is Established
If you either don't want a paternity test or a paternity test has already shown that you are the biological father your next step is a petition for legitimation. Keep in mind that if you are unsure whether the child is yours or not paternity and legitimation can be done at the same time (which is another reason you need to hire an attorney). Legitimation is the process by which an unwed father goes before a Judge and states that he wants to take legal responsibility for his child(ren). It is a very simple 1-2 hearing process and once the petition is granted the father has the right to visitation, joint custody or sole custody (depending on the situation). There are multiple types of custody and an attorney would help you decide which option is best for your situation.
If I already pay child support and/or my name is on the birth certificate, don't I have rights to visitation and custody?
No. In Georgia, although you are paying child support or your name is on the birth certificate, as an unwed father that gives you absolutely no legal rights to the child. Even if your name is on the Putative Father Registry that only gives you the right to know if things are happening with the child such as adoption, etc. In order to have legal rights in the eyes of the law you must go through the legitimation process.
I have gone through legitimation but the mother won't allow me visitation
Did the court order you visitation? Did you and the mother complete a parenting plan? These two things will determine what you need to do. if the answer to either of those questions is 'yes' the mother may be in contempt of a court order. You need to have a consultation with an attorney to see what your options are.
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