In Georgia, fathers who were unmarried to the mother of their child at the time of the baby’s birth, may be shocked to learn that they are not bestowed automatically with legal standing or status as the “father” of the child in question.
In the state of Georgia, men who have fathered children out of wedlock must take the affirmative step of establishing legitimation before the state of Georgia will recognize their paternal rights under state law. An order of legitimation issued by the court grants the father the same legal rights as it relates to the child as if he were married to the mother at the time of birth.
Alternatively, when a child is born to a married couple, under Georgia law, the father is automatically recognized as the father and husband.
At Fennell, Briasco, & Associates, we understand the emotional turmoil and stress that can be associated with finding out you don’t have legal rights as a father to your child. Our talented team of legal professionals can help walk you through the process and aggressively assert your rights, helping you to establish paternity and legitimation.
Paternity and Legitimation: Two Distinct Legal Concepts
Many fathers in Georgia are confused with regards to the differences between paternity and legitimation. In GA, these are two distinct legal concepts.
According to the Georgia Court of Appeals decision in Ghrist v. Fricks et al., 219 Ga. App. 415 (1995) the court stated that “paternity and legitimation are not the same thing”.
State courts have determined that no man has an absolute right to the granting of a petition filed to legitimate a child on the sole basis that he is, in fact, the biological father. Genetics aside, the courts instead take into consideration the welfare and best interests of the child and the court is not bound by or to the contentions of biological parents.
In Georgia, paternity is based on the biological or genetic connection of the child and purported father. Upon proof that a man is indeed the biological father of a child, paternity of the father as it relates to the child may be established. Paternity establishes a father’s financial obligations to the child so long as they remain a minor. It is important to note that a man may be found to be the biological father of a child and granted paternity, but still not have any rights to visitation or child custody.
Paternity only seeks to establish a biological connection between a man and a child. In order to establish a legal relationship with the child, legitimation must also be established.
Legitimation: A Necessary Step Towards Legal Fatherhood
What is Legitimation?
Aside from marrying the mother of your child, legitimation is the only way for the biological father of a child born within the state of Georgia to establish parental legal rights.
Who is Eligible to File for Legitimation?
Only males who have established legal paternity as the biological father of the child may file a petition seeking to legitimate his child.
What Does Legitimation Achieve?
- Establishes a legitimate and legal father-child relationship
- Enables the father to be listed on the birth certificate
- Confers the child’s right to inherit from the father
- Providers the father with the right to assert and enforce custody and/or visitation rights
Is Having your Name on the Birth Certificate Enough?
From a legal standpoint of being able to assert your rights as a father under Georgia law, no. Only legitimation can establish legal rights as a father.
I Already took a Paternity Test. Does that Mean I’m All Set?
It sounds counterintuitive, but in Georgia, without legitimation, a father may be compelled to pay child support post-DNA testing, yet have no legal rights to visitation or custody.
How do I Obtain a Legitimation Order?
At Fennell, Briasco, & Associates, we are highly experienced and familiar with this legal process and can help you take the necessary steps to obtain legitimation. The petition itself must be filed in the child’s county of residence at the local courthouse.
How Long Does the Legitimation Process Take?
- With maternal consent and with both signatures (mother and father), the document may be presented for approval immediately. Usually, within a few days, the document can be processed.
- In the event that either the mother or another alleged father figure contests the legitimation, the opposing party must be served with process. Proceedings may or may not require discovery and in the event that an agreement cannot be had, a case may need to be brought before the court for hearing on the issue. The timeframe for resolution is dependent on a number of factors with regards to how both parties respond during litigation.
- Disputes with regards to custody as part of the legitimation can also add complexity to the case and draw out the time to resolution.
Experienced Fathers’ Rights Attorneys
Fennell, Briasco, & Associates is here to help. If you seek to establish paternity or legitimation call our office today to set up a no-obligation consultation. Our extensive range of experience with regards to family law in Georgia, as well as our demonstrated track record of favorable outcomes for clients well-positions us to help your case. Call today and find out why so many fathers in Georgia choose us to fight for their rights.
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