Raising a Child Outside of Marriage: A look into Legitimation and Paternity for Unmarried Parents

by | Feb 18, 2021

Ready for that post-pandemic vacation to an exotic beach? Stop right now and start planning in advance if you are not married to your child’s other parent. Consider these common issues before you pack for the airport (well in advance, too!):

For divorced parents, you will have a Parenting Plan that is an Order of the Court.  Most Parenting Plans include who gets to apply for a passport, who holds the passport, when you need to give notice of your intent to travel out of Georgia and what type of information needs to be provided.  Even if your Parenting Plan does not have these details outlined specifically, consider what information you would want from the other parent before they jet off to Aruba with your child.

For unmarried parents, which comprise 57% of parents ages 26 to 31 according to a recent study, Georgia law can be more constraining.

A single mom may legally have sole legal and physical custody to a child born outside of marriage, but getting that passport without the consent of the biological father is going to take additional steps. A solution that takes time in the Courts has been to obtain a Declaratory Judgment by a Georgia Superior Court that the mother is the sole custodial parent.  This is as redundant as it seems, but the Federal Government requires either the other parent’s consent or in the absence of the consent, a Court Order awarding custody to the parent obtaining the passport.  Once you have the Court’s Order in hand, you can then apply for the passport.  The Travel Department is reporting routine passport timelines of 10-12 weeks and expedited timelines of 4-6 weeks due to COVID-19 impacts on the Postal Service.

Many dads of children born out of marriage in Georgia are confused by what it means to be listed on the child’s birth certificate or even to have a Court Order to pay child support in a case initiated by the Department of Human Services.  Neither of these give an unwed father rights. Period.  These may be evidence of his intent to be a dad, but without the dad officially being recognized by a Court Order to have legitimated the child, he will be at the mercy of the mother.

So what is a legitimation?  It’s an antiqued way of saying that a child is recognized formally and legally as a man’s child.  With more and more millennials delaying marriage, but also being the big buyers for homes in the Metro Atlanta, unmarried parents are not going away in Georgia with over 45% of children born in 2018 to unmarried parents.

Once a Court legitimates the Father, a custody order can be issued which will include a Parenting Plan.  This is a great place to consider outlining how passports will be obtained, as well as what schedule is in your child’s best interest.

What if it’s true love between unmarried parents? Put a ring on it! If the biological father marries the mother of his child, then the child is now legitimated.  Both parents will now have equal rights and access to the child.  Another option for those not ready to rush down the aisle is to enter into a Consent Legitimation Order while both parents get along.

Being aware and planning for your child’s future can make sure your post-COVID-19 beach plans are not grounded before you even take off.  Consider where your family lies on the spectrum and what steps need to be taken to get your child’s passport and any orders necessary at least 12 weeks before your trip.  So if you have a July reservation in Jamaica, you should be considering what help you need now.  Otherwise, trip insurance is our next conversation as the Court’s are slower to issue orders and are prioritizing criminal matters right now.

Document, plan, and prepare ahead.  Your future beach Instagram pictures of your child buried in the sand on a vacation will thank you.

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