Cohabitation and Child Custody Considerations in Georgia Domestic Partner Law
While domestic partnership can be a viable option for couples who would rather not get married, it can present problems in the event you and your partner become parents.
As Georgia family law attorneys, we want you to be aware of the potential paternity and child custody issues you could face in these situations.
Proving Paternity in Domestic Partnerships
For couples who are legally wed, the husband is automatically assumed to be the father of any children born during the marriage. Being married ensures his name is on the birth certificate and makes him responsible for providing financial support. It also ensures that the child receives certain benefits, such as inheritance rights and access to health care, social security, and other important programs.
For cohabitating couples in domestic partnerships, this is not the case. There is no automatic presumption of fatherhood. Instead, the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) advises that the father complete a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form as soon as possible, preferably in the hospital after giving birth. This acknowledgment provides unwed fathers with legal or physical custody rights to their children.
If the acknowledgment was not signed, and the relationship ends, in order to gain guaranteed rights to their children, unwed fathers may have to go to court and initiate paternity proceedings, including a legitimation action, to establish their custody rights.
Child Support and Domestic Partnerships
Parents have a legal responsibility to provide for their children financially. People in domestic partnerships have the same rights to receive child support through a court order as those in legal marriages. In the Georgia courts, child support proceedings rely on guidelines to determine the amount of support that should be paid. This will vary based on the child’s individual needs, any custody arrangements, and the income or earning potential of each parent. Once a child support order is in place, it can be enforced through the court in the event it is not paid. For any parent in a child support action, it is important that the appropriate amount of child support is ordered. This usually means that there needs to be an accurate reporting of each parent’s income. This can be difficult for a self-employed parent.
At Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor, our attorneys have the necessary training and experience to ensure that all issues related to children in a domestic partnership are appropriately addressed.