Ask a Divorce Lawyer: I’m an unmarried father. What do I need to do to get joint custody?

Question: I am an unmarried father of a son, and wanted to know what I would need to do legally to get joint custody of my son? Mom and I will not marry, and there is a chance she may even leave the state of Georgia. I dearly want to remain in my son’s life, but feel I need this custody plan in writing in order for her family to obey and respect my role in the child’s life. Any help would be appreciated.




Answer: I cannot answer your question specifically to Georgia as I do not practice in the state.  However, Cordell & Cordell has many attorneys licensed and located in Georgia who would be happy to help you.

With that said, depending on how your state treats paternity actions, you may have no say in the move right now.  Because you were not married at the time the child was born you will have to be adjudicated before any custody or placement rights are established.  Even if you signed the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity at the hospital, that does not mean that you have custody and placement rights.  Without a paternity order, many states default to sole legal custody and placement with the mother.  You can petition the court through a paternity action for custody and placement, however, you should be aware that this will trigger child support as well.  

Once there is a Paternity Order with the Court, many states have statutes in place which permit you to object to the move.  In this scenario, it would be her burden to prove that the move is in your son’s best interest.

You should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Georgia immediately to ensure you file prior to her moving.


Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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