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Rights of unmarried fathers

Georgia children are much more likely to be born to fathers who are not married to their mothers than in previous decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while just over 18 percent of children were born to unmarried parents in 2007, that figure has more than doubled to 40 percent around the country.

It is presumed that a mother's husband is the father of her child. If a mother and father are unwed at the time of the child's birth, the father can be present at the birth and add his name to the birth certificate. Otherwise, he can fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. In some cases, a mother may contest a father's paternity claim. If this happens, the father may want to petition the court and take a paternity test to prove his fatherhood.

Fathers who are not living with the child's mother may want some custody or visitation rights. Unless the mother is unfit, fathers may want to share custody or they might simply want to have visitation rights while the mother is the main custodial parent. Ideally, parents can work together to decide on a parenting plan that outlines their responsibilities before going to court. Biological fathers may also be required to pay child support. This is determined based on income and other factors.

Whether parents are going through a divorce or were never married, fathers may be concerned about preserving access to their children. An attorney may be able to suggest some strategies for increasing the likelihood that a father may get custody such as demonstrating his role as a caregiver and attending as many of the child's extracurricular activities as possible. Fathers who believe the child is not safe with the mother because of issues such as abuse or addiction may need to provide documentation such as police or medical reports.

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