There is a special bond parents share with their children, and because of this strong bond, there are Georgia family laws in place to help protect both a parent’s and a child’s right to having a relationship with one another. Mothers have always been viewed as children’s primary caregivers and have often been deemed as the child’s most important provider. Even though this is true to some degree, more and more attention is being placed on fathers’ roles in children’s lives and what their involvement means for a child’s development and wellbeing, not to mention the rights a father has in Georgia to a relationship with his child.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Mothers have been viewed as the caregivers, nurturers, and providers for children for hundreds of years – traditional family structures have seen the father working and the mother staying home to care for the children. Because of this, court rulings have seen the majority of custody cases benefiting mothers and leaving fathers with little time with their children. Studies have shown, however, that a father also plays an important role in a child’s life, and having them present can be beneficial for a child’s development. Fathers who are involved and affectionate can greatly impact a child’s social and language skills.
Establishing Paternity in Georgia
When a couple is married and has a child together in the state of Georgia, paternity issues are rarely a problem. Under this state’s law, when a couple is legally married the husband automatically assumes the position of the child’s father. When unmarried parents have a child, however, there are certain steps they must take to ensure the man is legally named the child’s father – this process is known as paternity. In addition to having the man named as the child’s legal father, the couple can also take additional steps to ensure the child has financial support and time with both parents should they remain unmarried.
Parents who do not take the steps to establish the child’s paternity often miss out on having the father have a meaningful relationship with their child, not to mention they can also not be eligible for the financial support needed to help raise the child. It is important to remember that, until the child’s paternity has been established, only the mother has legal and custodial rights to the child, meaning the presumed father does not have any protection or rights until he has established paternity. In the state of Georgia, parents have two simple ways in which they can establish their child’s paternity.
The first method of establishing a child’s paternity is for both parents to sign what is known as an “Acknowledgment of Paternity,” which is a basic form recognizing that both parents agree that the male is the child’s legal father. Both the mother and presumed father must sign this form either at the hospital when the child is born or at a later date at the State Office of Vital Records or the Vital Records Office for their county. Should the parents opt not to sign this form when the child is born, only the mother’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate, and the father’s is added later.
The second method of establishing a child’s paternity is that the presumed father, mother, or a government agency – usually an agent from the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) – can submit a paternity action to the court. The result of this action would be an involuntary determination by the court that the alleged father is the child’s legal and biological father. When there is a doubt of who the child’s biological father is, there is the option to have genetic testing completed. It is important for parents to know that completing this biological testing through DCSS does carry a nominal fee.
There are a number of reasons why both a father and mother should consider seeking legal paternity of their child. First, having a legal father allows for the involvement of both parents in a child’s life while also having the added benefit of the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate. Additionally, having both parents named ensures the child receives financial support in the way of child support payments that help pay the costs of his or her needs while also having access to both parents’ Social Security benefits, health benefits, and other services should they be needed at any time.
Father’s Rights to Child Custody and Visitation in Georgia
Like most other states across the US, judges and family courts in the state of Georgia are guided by the “best interests of the child” standard when it comes to making decisions regarding child custody. When judges begin a child custody case, the mother and the father are both treated as equal, capable providers, and the factors found in the best interests of the child standard help to weigh which parent makes the better custodial parent. Some of the factors that make up this standard include:
- Each parent’s home environment
- Each parent’s emotional ties with the child
- Each parent’s mental and physical health
- The relationship the child has with any siblings
- Each parent’s stability
- Each parent’s history of substance abuse of any kind, if present
- Each parent’s history of physical or sexual abuse or neglect, if present
- Each parent’s criminal history, if present
Based on these and a number of other factors, the judge makes a decision regarding both legal and physical custody. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, and physical custody is the right to have care and control of the child. Depending on the balance of the factors in the best interest of the child standard, either the mother or father can be named the primary custodian and the other parent is named the non-custodian except in situations where joint custody is awarded. Additionally, the non-custodial parent receives visitation time.
Father’s Right to Child Support
After the Georgia child custody case has concluded, the primary custodial parent is often awarded child support from the non-custodial parent. This is true regardless of whether the custodial parent is the child’s mother or father. These child support payments are meant to help with the expenses of raising the child including helping to pay for shelter, clothing, food, and medical expenses. Fathers have just as much right to collect child support when they are the custodial parent as a mother would have the same access to resources to help enforce the payment of child support.
How Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
Even though fathers have all the same rights as mothers, many men do not know what their rights are and often miss out on time and relationships with their children because of it. This is why any male who is dealing with child custody or child support issues should seek the legal guidance of an attorney, especially one who specializes in family law and fathers’ rights for the state of Georgia. These legal professionals are well versed in state laws, can help guide fathers through the sometimes confusing legal waters, and can often be the key to helping fathers gain the time they wish to have with their child.