Absent Parent Laws in Georgia

By Anna Assad

An absent parent in Georgia still has legal obligations to his child, such as providing financial support. An absent parent may face the termination of his rights as a parent. Georgia's laws regarding absent parents cover child support and parental rights. Further, an unmarried father may register with the state to prevent losing his rights to his child.

Child Support

Georgia's Division of Child Support Services will search for an absent parent for child support purposes only. If a parent files for a child support award or enforcement of an existing order, the support division will attempt to locate the absent parent so he may begin paying support. Georgia laws allow the Georgia Department of Public Health to help the child support division find an absent parent. The department may contact other government agencies, such as the Georgia Department of Revenue, for information regarding the possible whereabouts of an absent parent. For example, the department of revenue may have an address for the absent parent from his most recent state tax return.

Termination of Parental Rights

A termination of a parent's parental rights ends his legal rights to his child and their legal relationship. A parent whose rights are involuntarily terminated no longer pays child support once his rights are ended, but he may still owe back child support and already accrued arrears, depending on the circumstances of the case. One of the grounds for involuntary parental rights termination in Georgia is abandonment. An absent parent who hasn't paid child support or communicated with his child for a year or more is considered to have abandoned the child, according to the official website of LegalAid-GA. Parental rights termination is completed through the Georgia court system; the parent who is alleged to have abandoned the child does have the right to defend himself against the claim.

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Putative Father Registry

Georgia law allows fathers or potential fathers to register with the Vital Records office of the Georgia Department of Public Health. An unmarried father who signed an acknowledgement of paternity -- a legal document stating he is the father of the named child -- or who believes he may be a father can fill out a form to become part of the registry. The form asks for information including the names and addresses of the father, mother and child. Once the father files the form, he can update his information, such as his address, if there are any changes. The registry may allow an unmarried father to avoid being named an absent parent if the mother is hiding the child from him or has blocked contact. If any adoption proceedings are commenced regarding his child, the court will use the registry information to contact him and give him a chance to participate in the proceedings. Registration information may also be used to locate a father for child support and in other cases involving the child such as guardianship.

Considerations

An absent parent who pays child support but doesn't see his child is not usually subject to parental rights termination. When the court considers an application for parental rights termination on the grounds of abandonment, the court will investigate the circumstances and must consider whether rights termination is in the child's best interests.

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Oregon Law: Can a Father Lose Rights for Abandonment?
 

References

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