Unwed parents often establish informal custodial arrangements after the birth of a child and, as a result, many unmarried fathers place filing a legitimation action on the back burner. These fathers are often fearful or resentful of the court involvement that comes along with filing a legitimation action. Some incorrectly assume that their payment of child support and/or being listed on the birth certificate provides them with custodial rights. Then there are others who naively assume that their child’s mother would never deny them visitation with their child, cease all communications, or ever consider moving out of state with their child. Many unmarried fathers hold firmly to these beliefs, that is until the day comes when their child’s mother stops accepting their calls, ignores their text messages, refuses visitation with their child, and/or informs them that she and the child are moving out of state against the father’s objections. It is at times such as these, unfortunately, that it dawns on these unwed fathers that their decision to delay taking legal action through legitimation will cost them precious time and negatively impact their relationship with their child.
PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS AND FILE A LEGITIMATION ACTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
What should unmarried fathers do to avoid ending up in an adversarial relationship with their child’s mother with no custodial rights? Most importantly, the best practice is to consult with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible after the birth of the child to file a legitimation action and simultaneously resolve the issues of custody and visitation. If both the father and the mother are on good terms, the father may be able to file an uncontested legitimation action, which can save the father the unnecessary time and expense of lengthy litigation. By handling legitimation and other related issues such as custody and visitation early on, unmarried fathers do not have to worry later that their relationship with their child will become dependent upon the status of their relationship with the child’s mother.
FAILURE TO DELAY FILING FOR LEGITIMATION CAN HAVE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES FOR FATHERS
If, on the other hand, an unmarried father finds himself in a situation where his relationship with his child is in jeopardy and he has not yet established his rights through legitimation, he should still contact an attorney as soon as possible, especially if the mother plans to relocate out of state with their child. In these situations, time is of the essence as the mother is required to be served with a copy of the filed petition for legitimation. Delayed action may result in losing track of the location of the mother and the child. This will of course complicate service of process and may require the father to incur the additional expense of a private investigator. Failure to act quickly may also have a negative impact on venue (the proper court where the petition should be filed) for the father. For example, if a father puts off filing his legitimation action until after the mother and child have established residency in another state, the father may no longer be able to a file petition for legitimation in Georgia. Instead, he may now have to file a petition with the court in the new state in spite of the inconvenience and increased travel costs involved.
SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY TODAY ABOUT ESTABLISHING YOUR CUSTODIAL AND VISITATION RIGHTS
It cannot be stressed enough that unmarried fathers should consult with an experienced family law attorney to file a petition for legitimation to establish their custodial and visitation rights as soon as possible after the birth of their child. Contact The Douglasville Family and Divorce Attorneys at (770) 485-6620 to discuss the process of legitimation and how to ensure that your custodial rights are protected.