Fathers' Rights During the Holidays (and Throughout the Year)

I am the biological father of a child that I had with my ex-girlfriend.  I want to visit with my son this holiday season, but his mother will not allow me to see him.  What can I do?

Fathers in Georgia Do Not Automatically Receive Rights

First, you need to establish your legal rights to visit with your son.  In Georgia, if you father a child with a woman to whom you were not married when the child was born, you have no automatic legal rights to the child.  To establish legal rights to your child, you should go to the superior court of your county and file a Petition for Legitimation.  It does not matter if your name is on the child’s birth certificate.  Having your name on the child's birth certificate only makes you the putative father (i.e. the man who's assumed to be the father).  A court order is the best way (and in most cases, the only way) to establish your legal rights to your child.  An administrative (i.e. does not require a court order) means of legitimating your child does exist; however, it must be completed before the child's first birthday, and it cannot be used to establish visitation rights.  To learn more about legitimating a child administratively, visit the Administrative Office of the Courts' website for a document on establishing paternity and legitimation under Georgia law.

If your child's mother agrees to the legitimation, (which does not seem likely since she does not want you to visit with him) then you should have her sign a Mother's Consent to Legitimation and file it with your Petition.  That should make the process move a lot more quickly and keep you from having a drawn out court hearing. 

It Is Best to Legitimate When the Child is Young

When trying to legitimate your son, his age matters, as well as the steps you have taken to establish a relationship with him over the course of his lifetime.  Courts will be reluctant to legitimate your relationship with your son if he is an older child and you have not established a relationship with him.  However, if you have a good reason for not legitimating the child when he was younger the court may take that factor into consideration. 

In addition, the court will look at whether you have provided your son with sufficient financial support over the course of his lifetime.  If you are providing your son with financial support, you should gather as much documentation as possible to support this (i.e. receipts, post office delivery confirmations, bank statements, etc.).  Even without a court order establishing paternity or legitimation, you are obligated by state law to financially support the child if you are his father. 

In addition to filing a Petition for Legitimation in Superior Court, you should also file a Petition for Visitation in order to establish your rights to visit with your child.  The common practice would be to combine the two petitions in a Petition for Legitimation and Visitation.  If you request visitation rights with your request for legitimation, you should also attach a proposed visitation schedule with the petition that you file with the court.

One of our child custody lawyers will be happy to speak with you about your situation

We strongly advise that you talk with an attorney before filing a Petition for Legitimation or Petition for Legitimation and Visitation, especially if the child's mother does not consent to the legitimation.  Georgialegalaid.org provides pro se forms on their website, but legitimation and visitation cases can get pretty complex and need to be done correctly from the very beginning.  Please contact our office to have one of our skilled attorneys assist you with your legitimation and visitation matter.