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DNA Doesn’t Automatically Make You A Dad

He’s spent the last 9 months preparing for the baby. He’s read the books, he’s gone with Mom to the birthing class and stocked up on diapers, wipes and newborn sleepers. But, come birth day, if Dad is not married to Mom, he has no automatic legal rights to his newborn baby.

A child born out of wedlock means a child is born to a mother and father who are not legally married. In Georgia, the unwed mother is the ONLY person who has legal custody and established rights to the child at birth. Dad can establish Paternity (the determination that that Dad is both the biological and legal father) after birth by signing a voluntary “Acknowledgement of Paternity.” However, establishing Paternity only creates a financial responsibility for Dad, meaning Dad is now legally required to financially support the child and provide health insurance. And, even though Dad is legally obligated to pay child support, paternity does NOT give Dad custody or visitation rights. In Georgia, Dad can be legally required to pay child support but have absolutely no access to the child nor any decision making authority. Alternatively, Dad cannot “give up his rights” in order to avoid paying child support.

In order to establish custody and visitation, Dad needs to first legitimate the child (either voluntarily within the child’s first year of life or petition the court if later). Legitimation is the springboard to custody and visitation, ie parenting plans. Legitimation also grants rights to the child, such as the ability to inherit property from Dad and receive government benefits through the military, social security, etc. Once paternity and legitimation is established, Dad can petition the Court for a parenting plan to establish custody, visitation, decision making authority, etc-just like parenting plans created pursuant to a divorce of parents.

So, Dads . . .DNA and paying child support don’t grant you the legal right to be a Dad. For more answers or to further discuss your rights and responsibility to a child born out of wedlock, please contact The Snyder Adams Law Firm, LLC.

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