Former American Idol winner, Fantasia Barrino, is gearing up for a battle with the father of her teenage daughter. Fantasia Barrino - Baby Daddy Surfaces and Demands Custody, tmz.com, October 5, 2014. Brandel Shouse, the 13-year-old's father, is suing Barrino for legal and physical custody, claiming he is the better parent. Conversely, Barrino is claiming that Shouse has never had a relationship with the child, nor has he ever provided any financial support for her. In addition to fighting Shouse's custody modification action, Barrino is now suing him for child support, claiming he is fully capable of supporting the child.
If this case were in Georgia, the first thing the court would look at is whether Shouse ever legitimated the child. Since he and Barrino were never married, if he did not formally legitimate the child, he would have absolutely no custodial rights whatsoever in Georgia. O.C.G.A. §19-7-25. He would, thus, have to file a Petition for Legitimation, and seek custody and/or visitation as a part of that action. Legitimation, however, does not determine whether a father must pay child support, as it is the "joint and several duty of each parent of a child born out of wedlock to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of the child…except to the extent that the duty of one parent is otherwise or further defined by court order." O.C.G.A. §19-7-24. Thus, if this situation were in Georgia, Shouse could be required to pay child support before he could have the opportunity to be awarded any custodial rights. If he wanted to attempt to avoid child support, Shouse could allege that he is not the father and force Barrino to file a paternity action but, since he is seeking custody, it is unlikely that he will deny that the child is his.
To all fathers of a child/children born out of wedlock, let this be a lesson to you. If you want any custodial rights to your child, file a Petition for Legitimation now. Assuming your Petition is successful and you are a fit parent, this will ensure your status as the legal father and, hopefully, open up the possibilities for a more meaningful relationship with your child through ample custodial time.