Mother’s and Father’s Rights: What Does Georgia Law Say?
Parenting is challenging, and unmarried parenthood has many complications. It is emotionally draining to navigate a separation or breakup, especially involving children. The stakes are higher for couples with children, as they have to place their parental rights in the hands of the legal system, which is not ideal for any family. However, sometimes making tough or counterintuitive choices becomes necessary to prioritize the child’s best interests.
If you find yourself ending a relationship and need to consider children, it’s crucial to understand the basics of your legal position. In Georgia, the law governs important aspects like paternity, child support, custody, visitation, and the mother’s and father’s rights. Now, let’s explore parental rights from both the father’s and mother’s perspectives.
Legitimation and Father’s Rights
Legitimation is the process of establishing a father’s rights to a child born out of wedlock. Georgia law defines “born out of wedlock” as a child conceived or born outside the bounds of a marital union. Before legitimation, a father may have financial obligations toward the child—but has no legal rights for custody or visitation.
In Georgia, a Mother can obtain a court order to establish a child’s paternity or biological connection to the biological father. Still, only a father can petition to establish legitimate status as the legal father of the child.
If you are a father and want to start the process for the legitimation of your child, start by serving the mother with this petition. She may exercise her right to file an objection. The court will then set a hearing and may order genetic testing to determine paternity before hearing the issue of legitimation.
Claiming Your Father’s Rights
You may claim your parental rights once you’ve completed the legitimation process. However, you’ll still need to determine factors like custody, child support, and visitation with the court. The judge will determine the child’s best interests by examining factors like home environments, emotional ties, stability, criminal records, and history of abuse.
Contrary to pervasive beliefs regarding dismissing the father’s rights, the court actively seeks to involve both parents in the upbringing of their children. Once legitimated, a father stands on equal footing with a mother in the right to legal and physical custody of a child. Generally, the Court hopes parents participate and co-parent to raise the child.
There’s no such thing as gender preference regarding parental rights. Every parent can step up to the plate to do what is necessary and in their child’s best interests.
Understanding Child Custody Arrangements in Georgia
The primary objective of child custody arrangements in Georgia is to serve the child’s best interests. It’s important to understand that there are two types of custody to establish: physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to day-to-day caretaking responsibilities, while legal custody refers to the parental right to make significant decisions regarding healthcare, religion, extracurricular activities, and education. Often, one parent may have primary physical custody over the child while both share legal custody.
Joint legal custody happens in 99.9% of cases. It’s also a common trend for legal counsels to split up those responsibilities if we have two very involved parents, regardless of whether they were traditionally involved or not.
Custody Arrangements and Parenting Plans
The court system establishes parenting plans that outline each parent’s physical and legal custody status. Parental rights will be determined based on factors like involvement, individual relationships with the child, history of care, stability, and home environments. One parent may have primary physical custody and therefore be empowered to have the final say on day-to-day matters when both parties can’t agree. Conversely, the court may order one parent sole custody or both parents joint legal or physical custody.
Details like a realistic visitation schedule and an agreement on how both parties will collaborate on major decisions will be drawn up during the proceedings.
Parenting plans are comprehensive. They’ll include details on the child’s schedule, the mother’s and father’s rights to make decisions, transportation, and parental conduct. Negotiating these details with your co-parent may be difficult. You should refrain from criticism, embrace compromise, listen, be courteous, and put the child’s needs first.
I tell all my clients that you should always treat someone with the dignity and respect of being a parent, whether you like them personally or not. There’s a difference between them as a person and them as a parent.
— Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor
Child support refers to the monetary assistance provided by one parent to another for the care and upbringing of their child.
Georgia follows specific guidelines to determine payment amounts. The court uses factors like the gross income of both parents, health insurance premiums, childcare expenses, and other obligations of support to determine monthly quantities.
You can file a petition to modify your child support order if you’ve experienced a significant change in circumstance. Applicable changes include factors like an increase or decrease in income or a change in the child’s needs.
Mediation may help parties effectively implement conflict resolution tactics to come to an agreement regarding financial obligations. Approach the negotiation table with accurate documentation and a willingness to clearly communicate—although, as always, obtaining legal representation is ultimately the best way to protect your interests throughout divorce proceedings.
If you’re talking about the ability to provide for yourself in order to be able to provide for your child, they’re intertwined.
— Belinda Martin, Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor
Consult With an Attorney to Protect Your Mother’s or Father’s Rights
Navigating the legal process surrounding child custody and support can be difficult and frightening, but remember that you can assert legal rights. Obtaining legal counsel is the most effective way to ensure that your parental rights are honored in your eventual parenting plan.
The experienced attorneys at Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor know the ins and outs of Georgia law. They can help guide your divorce process without sacrificing your needs, rights, and desires as a parent. Reach out today to speak to an attorney ready to advocate for you.