If there is any uncertainty about your rights to visitation or custody of a child, regardless of whether you and the child's mother are married, divorced or unmarried, there are ways to determine paternity. Under different circumstances, you might want to disprove paternity if you believe you should not be responsible for child support, or maybe you are a mother who wants to establish paternity in order to collect child support.
Providing proper care for a child is important, and denying a child the love of both parents is typically not beneficial to the child. However, without a legal document that confirms paternity, dealing with child support, visitation and child custody might always be a contentious issue.
You might have many unanswered questions
Paternity is legally established fatherhood that serves to identify a man as a child's biological father. The legalities of the process can be complicated, and an experienced Georgia family law attorney might be a valuable asset. Here are answers to some of the questions you might have:
- Different parties can initiate action for the establishment of paternity. These include the mother, the child, an alleged father, a relative or the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
- The father can file a petition in the state or superior court in his county if he is a Georgia resident. Otherwise, the father must file the suit in the child's county of residence.
- The mother must be informed of the lawsuit and given a choice to be heard regardless of whether she is under the jurisdiction of the court at which the petition is filed.
- Georgia laws entitle only the mother to have custody of a child who was born to an unmarried couple. Only with legally established paternity can the court award any custodial or visitation rights to the father. However, the court must first determine that it would be in the child's best interests.
- Even if the father's name appears on the child's birth certificate, Georgia law requires the legal establishment of paternity before he will receive any rights. If his name and social security details are on the birth certificate and he wants to disprove paternity, he will have the burden of proof. However, in cases where any party who claims the child's father is someone whose details are not on the birth certificate, he or she will have the burden of proof.
- Any one of the parties involved in the action may request a court order for DNA testing to determine paternity. Unless there are legitimate objections, the court must issue such an order. However, the cost of this will come at the expense of the party who entered the motion.
- Any action for paternity brought before the birth of the child will only proceed after the child is born.
Regardless of your standing in an issue that requires the determination of paternity, help is available. This is a complicated field of the law, and a full understanding of the legal proceedings and consequences of such motions can prove invaluable to your cause. For this reason, the support and guidance of an experienced family law attorney could be vital for the protection of your legal rights and could significantly increase your odds of obtaining the outcome for which you are fighting.