In Georgia, laws regarding children born out of wedlock have changed very little over time. Under the law, when an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, the baby belongs solely to the mother. Even when the mother and father are in a committed relationship, if they are unmarried, the father has no legal parental rights.

Many fathers in this situation do not realize they need to take legal action to establish legal ties to their children. For fathers who want custody, visitation or decision-making rights regarding their children, they need to go through a legal process known as legitimation. If they fail to do so, they have virtually no enforceable parental rights.

Recently, the Chattahoochee Circuit started the “Legitimation Station.” This effort is aimed at helping single dads understand the importance of establishing parental rights and giving them the necessary information to begin the legal process.

Why is this program important? Supporters of the program say the goal of the “Legitimation Station” is to educate unmarried fathers about their rights and help them understand what they need to do to bring a lawsuit to establish parental rights. Further, they hope by having extensive resources available, they can make the process as easy as possible for these fathers.

Links for filing a legitimation petition can be found online. For anyone without access to the Internet, public terminals have been created in each of the circuit’s six counties: Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor.

In most situations, it is best when both the mother and father take an active role in a child’s life. Unmarried fathers can contribute to their children’s well-being by taking steps to ensure they are legally entitled to remain in the child’s life.

Source: WSLB.com, “Dads: Do You Know What Legitimation Is?,” Lindsey Connell, 9 March 2011