Does a Father Have Rights to Visitation or Custody with his Child if he did not Marry the Mother?

No, unless the father filed a legal action in the courts and obtained an order granting him rights to visitation and/or custody.

A child born out of wedlock is illegitimate. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-25, only the mother of a child born out of wedlock is entitled to custody of the child unless the father legitimates the child and obtains a judicial determination of custody and visitation rights. Otherwise, the mother is the one who may exercise all parental control over the child.


There are several ways for a father of a child born out of wedlock to legitimate his child. One way is by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and acknowledgment of legitimation. These documents are often provided at the hospital after a child’s birth for the father to sign if he is present and agreeable to doing so. These documents can be signed up to the day before the child’s one year birthday. This is an administrative way to legitimate the child.

These forms are then provided to the State Office of Vital Records. When these forms are signed and provided to the State Office of Vital Records, the father’s name will appear on the birth certificate. However, this administrative legitimization DOES NOT give the father any rights to visitation or custody of the child. In order to obtain any legal rights to visitation or custody, the father must file a legal action in the court in order to establish his legal rights to visitation and/or custody of the child

What if the Father’s Name is on the Birth Certificate?

Listing the father on the birth certificate, even with this permission, does not give the father any rights legally to have custody or visitation with the child. The law provides that the father must file a legal action in the court. The legal action would be to establish legal rights to custody and/or visitation rights with the child.

Even if the father did not sign the forms or the birth certificate, he can still render his child legitimate by filing a legal action in the court. This legal action is called a legitimation action. As part of the legitimation action, the father may request visitation, parenting time, or custody.

If you would like more information on this, or know of someone going through a similar situation, simply call our office at 770-795-9596 to schedule a consultation with family law attorney Diana Whipkey Young.