Most fathers want to be a part of their child’s life whether they are married to the child’s mother or not. This is beneficial to the child, as well, because many experts believe that a child’s relationship with his or her father is important for the child’s emotional well-being. However, in Georgia, a father will need to go through the proper channels to establish visitation and custody of a child, and in some situations, may have to establish paternity and pursue a legitimation action, as well.
What is the difference between legitimation and paternity? While paternity will identify a man as the biological father of a child, it will not grant the man any legal rights to that child. Legitimation is required when a child is born out of wedlock in order for a man to be identified as the father. Because of this, legitimation is required before a man can ask the court for custody or visitation with the child. Georgia is one of only a few states that require this action.
Options for Legitimation
Of course, marrying the child’s mother is an option for some, but even if the father is listed on the child’s birth certificate, if the parents are not married at the time of birth, a legitimation action will be required to establish legal rights to the child. A Paternity Acknowledgment Form has a legitimation option at the bottom, and if both parents agree and sign this section, it will be an acknowledgement of legitimation which grants legal rights of the child to the father.
Any voluntary legitimation acknowledgment must take place before the child’s first birthday and will not be considered valid if the mother was married to another person during the pregnancy with the child or is currently married. The biological father also has the option of filing a Petition for Legitimation any time after the child is born, although the mother does have the right to contest such action.
If the biological father of the child is on the child’s birth certificate, this will establish paternity. The parents of the child can also sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity that places the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate. The court can also be petitioned to establish paternity, and this action usually involves a DNA test.
The Georgia Department of Human Resources may also pursue a paternity action against the father, which will then require the Office of State Administrative Hearings to issue a decision of paternity. If the man the petition was filed against is found to be the father, he will then have a financial obligation to support the child and child support payments will likely be ordered.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today
If you are facing a paternity action or need to file a legitimation action, the attorneys at Lankford & Moore Law can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us ensure that your rights as a father are protected.