For parents, the subject of child custody raises highly personal and emotional issues. Few things tug at our hearts like our relationships with our children.
This is true of both fathers and mothers, but Georgia law favors mothers in certain ways.
Married and unmarried parents
If the parents were married at the time of the child’s birth, Georgia law presumes that they have equal custody rights — at least if they had been married for 10 months or longer before the child’s birth. This means, if the parents later divorce, a court presumes that the parents will share custody of their child 50/50.
However, if the parents were not married at the time of child’s birth (or had been married only a short time) Georgia law does not presume that the man has any child custody rights toward the child. A court will presume that the mother has full custody rights toward the child.
It’s important to note here that issues of child custody are determined separately from issues of child support. Thus, it is common for a man to owe child support to his biological child even if he has no right to visit the child.
For a father to obtain child custody rights, he must prove paternity as a legal matter. One way to do this is by filling out an Administrative Legitimation form. Another is by going to court.
Possible changes in the law
In recent years, some lawmakers have called for changes to the law that would strengthen the legal rights of fathers. One proposal would make courts presume that all parents share custody 50/50.
For the time being, child custody in Georgia remains a complicated matter, especially for parents who were never married.