Parenthood can be complicated. It can be especially confusing, legally, if your child is born out of wedlock. According to Georgia law, a father’s connection to their children must be established before they can pursue visitation rights or before a mother can pursue child support payments.
The legal process of legitimizing a father can be difficult to understand, both in how it works and why it’s necessary. You can turn to a family law attorney with the Gentry Law Firm, LLC, to work with you to meet your paternity and legitimation needs. We can answer your questions and file the necessary paperwork to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Georgia’s Definition of Legitimation & Paternity
In Georgia, any children born to heterosexual married parents are presumed to be children of those parents. Even when parents are in committed relationships, the paternal connection will be disputed if their children are born out of wedlock.
Paternity is not assumed in unwed parents. “Legal” paternity establishes who the child’s biological father is and allows the mother to seek child support payments. Paternity does not typically include the father gaining any rights to the child.
Legitimation creates a legal relationship between parents and children. Married parents have that legal relationship to start. In situations with unwed fathers or where the father’s identity is questioned, once biological paternity is established, the father can seek legitimation. This means a father can have the rights and responsibilities assigned to parents and pursue child custody or visitation if they so choose.
Why Legitimation Matters
Paternity and legitimation are two distinct ideas within Georgia law. Paternity can be considered a precursor to gaining legal rights. It usually applies to children of unmarried mothers. When a child is born to unmarried parents, all legal rights are reserved for the mother. Before she can seek child support, she must file for paternity to legally establish who her child’s biological father is.
If the father wants custody or visitation rights, he must be legitimated. A biological father can establish a paternal link, but he won’t receive other rights to the child until he is legitimated in the eyes of the state.
Establishing Paternity and Legitimation
There are several people who can begin the paternity process. This is the first step to take for anyone who wishes to legitimate someone as a child’s father.
A petition to establish paternity must be filed in the county where the proposed father lives. A petition can be brought by the child, their mother, any relative taking care of the child as a guardian, the Department of Health Services, or the alleged father.
A father’s social security number and name appearing on the child’s birth certificate is not sufficient evidence of paternity. If someone disputes that they are the father, they will need to prove that. Paternity can be established voluntarily with paternity acknowledgment form. It may also be established through a court order.
Once paternity is established, a mother can pursue child support payments and a child can receive social security benefits from their father.
Completing the Legitimation Process
Once paternity has been established, a father can pursue legitimation. Even with paternity, he will not have complete rights reserved for legitimated fathers.
A father can voluntarily acknowledge legitimation, provided they do so before the child’s first birthday. Both parents must “freely agree and consent” that the father is legitimate. They each must sign the child’s birth certificate, have it notarized, and have photo identification at the time of the signing.
A child’s biological father is the only one who can file for legitimation.He can include the terms of visitation, custody, or parenting time with his petition. If the Department of Health Services has established paternity, a father can file his legitimation petition.
Once a petition has been filed with the court, it may declare the father legitimate. This essentially gives the child the same rights as a child born to married parents, and the father has custody or visitation rights.
Challenges to Establishing Legitimation
There can be roadblocks along the path to paternity or legitimation. A father must prove they are the child’s biological father. The child’s mother may dispute they are the father. Additionally, the court may rule against legitimation if it isn’t in the child’s best interests.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help With Your Legitimation
Establishing a legal connection with between father and child can be a challenging process without legal help. Doing it properly is crucial if you want to limit the risk of failure and other legal hardships.
A family law attorney can guide you through the essential steps you need to secure legitimation. They can review your case and help you file the necessary paperwork. If there is a dispute with paternity, they can help you file a petition and work through your legal challenges.
Call a Cobb County Paternity Lawyer
The Gentry Law Firm, LLC, has helped countless families through their legal disputes. Founding attorney William C. Gentry understands that challenges with families can be especially daunting. He wants you to find the solution that fits your needs.
Legitimation may seem like a simple process, but working with a family law attorney ensures you the best chance to connect with your child. Call (770) 425-5573 today to schedule a consultation or use our online form.