Back fifty or sixty years, gender roles dictated that fathers were the breadwinners, and mothers were the caretakers. That is not the way most households run anymore. Women often work outside of the home, and men are increasingly involved in the upbringing of their children.
What are your rights to custody as a father?
As a father going through a divorce, you may be concerned you will lose custody of your children. However, family structure changes have led to changes in the way fathers are treated in child custody cases. In Georgia, married parents have equal opportunity to visitation and custody of their children. Gone are the days when mothers were automatically awarded custody. The court bases its decision on what is in the best interests of the children.
In cases where you are not married to the children’s mother, the situation is different. Georgia law states only unmarried mothers have custody rights to children. According to the Georgia government’s website, unmarried fathers must file a legitimation action to get parental rights. Another option is you and the mother could agree to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of legitimation. A legitimation action grants the unmarried father the legal right to be recognized as the father. The legitimation action also allows your children to inherit from you, and you the ability to file for visitation or custody rights.
Do you always have to pay child support?
In Georgia, child support is calculated with an income shares model. With the income shares model, the gross income of both parents is combined to determine the monthly income of the parents. The gross income includes salary, commission, bonuses, overtime, pension, retirement pay, workers’ compensation benefits, Social Security pay, and other sources of income.
This combined amount, along with the number of children, is then used to consult the child support basic obligation table. The table determines what child support is appropriate based on income, and then the amount is divided based on each parent’s contribution to the income. Maybe your combined income is $8,000 a month, and the table states the child support obligation for two children is $1500. If your spouse makes 40 percent of the income and is the custodial parent, you are obligated to pay 60 percent of $1500 or $900 in child support.
Unmarried fathers who have not filed a legitimation claim may still be obligated to pay child support. Child support is based on paternity, not legitimation. However, having your paternity established does afford you the right to visitation or custody. Only a legitimation action does that.
Can your former spouse tell you how to spend time with your children?
After the issues of custody and child support are decided, you and your spouse may have disagreements regarding how your children spend their time. Many parents have misconceptions about what their legal rights are regarding this issue. Your former spouse cannot legally tell you how to spend time with your children, as long as the behavior is appropriate for children. For example, your ex-spouse cannot dictate what your children eat for dinner, or if they meet a your new significant other.
Can you prevent your former spouse from spending child support on other things?
If you are the parent paying child support, you cannot direct how the other parent spends the money. You may disapprove of how your former spouse chooses to spend the money, but legally, you cannot do anything about this. The only exceptions would be in extreme circumstances, but the court will want a large amount of evidence to consider investigating. Likewise, if you are the custodial parent, your former spouse cannot tell you how to spend the child support money. It is up to your discretion.
Dealing with child custody and support issues is difficult even if your divorce is amicable. If you are concerned your interests are not being represented, you may consider contacting an attorney experienced in defending fathers’ rights.