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Tuesday’s Legal Tidbit: What Rights Do I Have to My Child as an Unwed Father?

Question:  What rights do I have if I was not married to my child’s mother when she was born?

Answer:  Unfortunately, in Georgia, if you have not legitimized your child, you have no rights. The unwed mothers of illegitimate children in Georgia have full custody and all parental and legal rights as they pertain to the child.

In order to obtain rights for custody and visitation in Georgia, the child must be legitimized. This can be done either in conjunction with a voluntary paternity acknowledgement in which you can also legitimize the child. The other way to legitimize a child is to petition the court.

Once a child is legitimated, you have rights you can petition the court for custody and visitation. Keep in mind that, although you will gain rights after legitimization, you may also be required to pay child support at that time. It is very important that your child is legitimized if you want to have any rights, custody, or visitation. The process for legitimization in Georgia can be found in O.C.G.A §19-7-22.

(c) 2012. The Boddie Law Firm. All rights reserved. The information contained in this post is subject to our Disclaimer. Comments to this blog are moderated and subject to editing, removal or deletion at the discretion of the owner. (Photo: UKTodayNews.com)

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Tuesday’s Legal Tidbit: Can I Have My Daughter’s Mother Prosecuted for Child Abuse?

Question: I’m a Georgia father who has full custody of his  five-year-old daughter but her mother has visitation rights. I have long suspected my ex-wife was abusing our daughter during visits and that was confirmed after this weekend’s visit to her mother when my daughter came home distraught, with bruises on her arms and legs, telling me her mother had beaten her several times for spilling juice on the floor just once and that she didn’t want to be left with her mommy anymore. Can I have my daughter’s mother prosecuted for child abuse and limit or prevent further visits?

Answer: Yes. Under O.C.G.A. 19-15-3(A), child abuse is defined as, “Physical injury or death inflicted upon a child by a parent or caretaker thereof by other than accidental means….” The law differentiates spanking from abuse in that, under that Code Section, “physical forms of discipline may be used as long as there is no physical injury to the child.” If the child’s body shows evidence of physical injury, like the bruises you describe, under Georgia law, that is considered child abuse and a parent who commits child abuse can be arrested and prosecuted.

In order for the daughter’s mother to face prosecution for suspected abuse, you must first contact law enforcement in your jurisdiction, who are considered “abuse investigators” under the law, and make a verbal and written report to them. They will talk to the child, examine the child and document any physical injuries. And, if they determine that the child shows evidence of having been physically abused and the mother is the likely culprit, they will coordinate the questioning and, potentially, the arrest and prosecution of the child’s mother in her jurisdiction.

More than likely, they also will contact the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) about the alleged abuse. The Agency will conduct its own investigation to determine if it is in the best interest of the daughter to spend unsupervised visitation time with her mother. However, while DFCS can suspend visits to the mother, legal modification of a visitation order will have to be made in court by a judge and can be done based on police reports and DFCS’ investigation.

If you have questions about alleged child abuse, child visitation order modification or any other family law matter, please call The Boddie Law Group, LLC at (404) 287-2393 for a full and thorough legal consultation. Visit our website to learn about our attorneys.

(c) 2012. The Boddie Law Group, LLC. All rights reserved. The information contained in this post is subject to our Disclaimer. Comments to this blog are moderated.

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