Couples who choose to live together without getting married often assume they have the same rights as married couples.
But under Georgia state law, married couples have distinct rights that cohabiting couples do not share.
This is especially important to consider when addressing paternity issues. Understanding the rights of cohabiting couples can help you protect your interests and rights in Georgia’s family law courts.
Understanding Cohabitation in Georgia
When two people live together on an ongoing basis as a couple, regardless of the sex of either person, they are cohabitating under Georgia law.
More adults are choosing to cohabitate and have children who are born out of wedlock. But cohabitating couples may not always experience the same stability as married couples.
So what happens when a cohabiting couple with children decide to go their separate ways?
In 2013, the National Marriage Project reported that cohabitating couples in their twenties are three times more likely to dissolve the relationship than married couples.
Parenting rights can be different for cohabiting couples, and paternity must be established in order to secure the rights you need to protect the wellbeing of children.
Cohabitation, Marriage, and Paternity
In situations where a couple is legally married, paternity is assumed for any children born during the marriage. The father’s name is included on birth certificates, and he is legally responsible for providing financial support.
The presumption of fatherhood in marriage allows children to have rights to social security, healthcare, and other benefits from both parents.
But the presumption of fatherhood doesn’t exist for cohabitating couples. Establishing paternity is critical for a father who isn’t married to the mother of his children.
Without taking this step, he could lose parental rights should the relationship end. This can require them to take legal actions to establish their rights and gain partial or full custody of their children.
Unwed fathers can establish paternity as soon as a child is born. Completing a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form can help you secure physical and legal custody as soon as possible.
Establishing Paternity and Cohabitation
Parents are legally required to provide the support their children need. Cohabitating parents have the same rights as married parents when it comes to receiving child support.
There are guidelines in place that allow Georgia courts to determine how much child support must be provided in any given case.
Child support for children of cohabiting couples will depend on their unique needs, the income of both parents, custody agreements, and other factors.
Establishing paternity is an essential part of this process. An unwed father must get their name on the child’s birth certificate. They can do this by completing a VAP form at the hospital at the time of birth.
Fathers can also obtain assistance from an administrative agency to complete the necessary forms and DNA testing needed to establish paternity.
If paternity is called into question, a Petition for Paternity and Child Custody can be filed to have the courts order a paternity test and verify if paternity has already been established.
Parents who aren’t married need to know their parental and marital rights in order to avoid lengthy and costly legal issues related to child support, custody, the division of assets, and other factors.
Consulting with a skilled and experienced family law attorney is the best way to understand your rights as a cohabiting couple and as parents. Establishing paternity is an important step in securing your parental rights and the wellbeing of your children.