When a child is born outside of marriage, the mother has custody and all parental rights until the father legitimates the child. Typically, a mother will pursue a paternity action to collect child support from the father in addition to other expenses. However, in order to gain parental rights and custody or visitation rights in Georgia a father must bring an action to claim paternity of the child as well.
To illustrate this point, a father in Michigan was dating a woman who told him that she was divorced. After the woman became pregnant, they moved in with each other. When their daughter was born, the man was not allowed to sign his name on the birth certificate because the hospital told him the mother was currently married. The couple stayed together for two and a half years and raised the child together. However, after they broke up, the mother reconciled with her husband and he sought to legally claim the girl as his own child.
In Michigan, as in many other states, when a married woman gives birth to a child, the husband is presumed to be the father. Over the last 4 years, the man has fought to be recognized as the girl's father, and lawmakers in the state have enacted a law stating that biological fathers can now petition to have their parental rights recognized.
In the case of unmarried couples however, paternity is established either through a voluntary agreement between the couple or a court order. A court order is created when a father's identity is determined in a paternity action. Such a determination requires the father to pay child support from the date of the child's birth and creates other legal rights for the child such as the right to inherit and access personal information. If a father wishes to establish paternity he also gains legal rights to be involved in the child's life as well as custody or visitation rights.
In situations where a child is born outside the scope of marriage, paternity can be established through a voluntary agreement or a court order. A legal action to determine a father's identity can be brought by the mother or the father and such determination imposes numerous legal obligations and rights for the father.
Source: WNEM CBS News 5, "Father fights to change paternity rights in Michigan, has court hearing next Friday," Andrew Keller, Oct. 10, 2012