The number of children born to unmarried parents continues to rise. In such cases, biological fathers generally do not have as many rights as biological mothers, and it is critical for unwed fathers in Georgia to be aware of this.
A woman who gives birth to a child is automatically that child’s legal parent. And, a man who is married to a woman who gives birth has presumed parental rights. The same is not true for unwed fathers, who generally have no legal standing unless they establish paternity.
One option to accomplish this is to have both parents sign a voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form as soon as possible after the child is born. If the mother is not willing to sign this, it may be necessary for the father to pursue a court order. An unwed father can also join Georgia’s putative father registry as soon as he learns of a pregnancy in order to ensure he is notified of any adoption or custody proceedings.
Failing to establish paternity can leave the father in legal limbo. In a recent North Carolina Supreme Court case, a biological father lost his bid to prevent the adoption of a child he fathered. The case involved an unmarried couple who had a relationship that was primarily physical in nature.
The man apparently assumed the woman was using a form of birth control, but she was not doing so. She became pregnant and delivered a baby in October 2010. She gave the child up for adoption and the biological father was not aware of this until six months later.
When he learned about the adoption, he tried to stop it and claim custody. His claim made it all the way to the state’s highest court, which ultimately ruled that he did not have paternal rights. The court found that he failed to assert paternal rights by neglecting to learn whether the woman was using birth control and by failing to show any interest in whether she became pregnant.
This case is a reminder of the limited legal options of biological fathers and of the need to act with urgency in order to obtain fathers’ rights.
Source: News & Record, “Court doesn’t upset adoption for biological father,” Doug Clark, June 12, 2014Source: Georgia Department of Human Services, “Paternity Establishment,” accessed June 13, 2014