In Georgia, the father of a child born outside the scope of marriage has no legal rights to the child until paternity is established or the father legitimates the child. A man must therefore seek to identify himself as the father in order to gain parental rights and seek visitation or custody rights to the child. Until such identification is made, a father's rights essentially do not exist.
Earlier this week, the Virginia Supreme Court presided over a case concerning a man's parental rights. Three years ago, he and his ex-girlfriend had a daughter through in vitro fertilization that used his sperm. Both parties signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity, identifying the man as the father. A few months later, the woman stopped allowing the man to visit the child. The woman has labeled him a sperm donor and bases her argument on a state law that doesn't grant a sperm donor parental rights unless he is the mother's husband. The man is arguing that the Acknowledgment of Paternity is clear and should allow him a relationship with his child.
For a child born in Georgia within a marriage, there exists a presumption that the husband is the father. However, when a couple is not married, the same presumption is not made. If a couple decides not to marry, but are sure of the identity of the father, they may still establish paternity through an acknowledgment of paternity. If both parties execute this acknowledgment, the father's name will be included on the birth certificate and paternity will be considered established for the child.
Paternity creates many rights and obligations for a father. He will likely be obligated to pay child support and share responsibility for the child. However, he will gain parental rights and have a say in decisions concerning the child. Such determination also creates the ability to pursue custody and visitation rights to the child.
The establishment of paternity can be done voluntarily between parties or through the courts and creates new obligations and rights concerning the child. A man pursuing a paternity or legitimacy action should be aware of such rights and obligations.
Source: WTVR 6 CBS, "Virginia Supreme Court hears case over donor's parental rights," Angela Pellerano, Oct. 31, 2012