Skip to content
Set Up a Consultation Call 770-594-8309 / Text 678-522-4799

Ther Rights of Unmarried Fathers and Mothers in Georgia Paternity and Legitimation Cases

Hello, my name is Scott Shaw, founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm, LLC. A law firm founded in 1995. Child custody, along with divorce and other areas of family law are our only area of legal practice. We don’t accept any other types of cases. In this video I will be discussing the topic of “what is joint custody in the State of Georgia.” This is the eighth article in a series of articles on “Father’s Rights” in Georgia. In the past we have discussed how to systematically go about winning custody of your child at trial (articles 1 through 5). Those dealt with married fathers. Starting with article 6 we are discussing unmarried fathers and their legal rights. This article will discuss some new proposed legislation, albeit, not in the State of Georgia, but in Ireland, that will be very instructive and make the point that unmarried fathers need to understand about their rights (or lack thereof) and why the things I have stated in this series of blogs on Father’s Rights have been stated.

Unmarried Georgia Father’s have no rights to their children, and can only obtain rights to their children in ONE WAY: A COURT ORDER.

I am just gonna pound this point into the ground, because I am asked this all the time, and my unmarried father clients seem not to believe me (and neither by the way do my unmarried mother clients). And it is a very common situation, where a child is born to an unmarried couple, and the couple live together and raise the child together, or the father raises the child by himself. Thereafter, I am contacted by the father because the mother is making threats, or has taken the child, or is threatening to file a paternity suit against the father to get child support set up. When I speak to fathers in this situation they are astounded, as I tell them, nope, does not matter that you are on the birth certificate, nope does not matter that you raised the child the child’s entire life, nope, nope, nope, nope…none of it matters. It actually does not even matter if you have been legitimated (as an example executed an Acknowledgment of Paternity) if there has been no court order granting you custody or visitation rights to your child. Mom has all rights to that child, you none, until such time as the court issues an order giving you custody rights. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO OBTAIN YOUR RIGHTS BUT A COURT ORDER. Really, no other way for an unmarried father in the State of Georgia (albeit, in egregious circumstances we can get you custody immediately as an unrelated third-party – for another blog).

I recall one case that I did last year where the father raised his little girl through age 3, while living with his parents in Georgia (mom lived with him in his parent’s house). The mother, an unfit parent, felt insulted by some slight or other that she alleges the family made, and alleged abuse (as they always do), and picked up the child and drove all the way to Florida to live with her drug abusing, and truly abusive, father.

Alarm bells went off, I was contacted, and we filed an emergency motion for custody. And things were looking good, as my client had signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Nevertheless, opposing attorney made a technical legal argument that my client did not have standing to file for custody of his own son, and thus his emergency petition for custody should be dismissed. Long and short of it, is that opposing attorney was wrong, but the judge (overworked, and without a law clerk) threw up his hands, he did not know. The case sat on his desk for months. I ended up having to draft a sophisticated brief, citing Federal and State law, my own court order, and getting three different court dates before the judge would issue an order to get this child back from the State of Florida. We ended up getting custody, but that poor little girl was stuck in that abusive home for six months. All because, until such time as there is a child custody order in place (not just a paternity, legitimation, or child support order) you have no rights, amazingly enough.

There is new legislation (proposed law) that will give unmarried father’s the same rights to their children as do married fathers – unfortunately this law is not proposed in the State of Georgia

I turn your attention to the Ireland. Ireland is proposing that unmarried fathers have equal rights with unmarried mothers: I present this to you, because there is no such law like this in the United States, or in any other “Western” country that I know of. This is an extraordinary thing. If one wants to start a push for father’s rights legislation, lobbying for a similar law in the State of Georgia is a very good place to start.

But I am a lawyer, and I have to take the law as it is. If you are an unmarried father, who does not live in Ireland, but instead in Atlanta, Georgia, you need to get a court order if you want custody or visitation rights to your child. There is no other way.

Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.

Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.


  1. Stephanie Ingersoll on October 21, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Question on this article please. What are the father’s rights if the time that the child was born the parents were NOT married but then later married…and are now separated, pending divorce. There is no custody agreement yet.

    • Scott Shaw on October 22, 2017 at 12:19 am

      Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 19-7-22(C) you will the legitimated father with equal rights as the mother has (exactly equal), as if the child was born in wedlock if you married the legal mother of the child after the child was born and you recognized the child as your own.

      The specific circumstances of your case are not spelled out and the answer may change depending on those circumstances, but in general, if you married the mother after the child’s birth, told everyone you were the child’s father, acted as the father, then, unless she brings some motion to disprove paternity in the divorce, you have the exact equal rights that she has to the child in a divorce, as if you were married at the time the child was born.

      And even if she were to bring an action to try to disprove your paternity, she is unlikely to succeed. My firm participated in the Georgia Supreme Court case that basically gave the husband in such a situation (if paternity is disproved) whether or not he wishes to remain the child’s legal father or not. But that is a complication that is unlikely to happen.

      If you have any further questions let me know.