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Paternity and Legitimation

Paternity and legitimation are legal proceedings to establish parental rights, such as parenting time or custody, and obligations, such as child support, between parents who were not married when the child was born.

Paternity in Georgia

A paternity action legally establishes fatherhood and child support obligations of the father.

Paternity Orders establish fatherhood and require that the father pay child support monthly and/or in lump sum payments. The Paternity can also provide the father with visitation (the ability to spend parenting time with the child). Paternity Orders do not “legitimate” the child or provide fathers with custody rights. 

The appearance of the father’s name on a birth certificate or both parents signing an acknowledgement of paternity may create a prima-facie, or presumptive, case that the father’s paternity is established. The father can then accept or challenge paternity, but the burden of proof is then on him to show that he is not the father. These cases are fact specific and consultation with an attorney is highly recommended.   

A paternity action may be initiated by any one of the following:

  1. The child;
  2. The mother of the child;
  3. Any relative in whose care the child has been placed;
  4. The Department of Human Services in the name of and for the benefit of a child for whom public assistance is received or in the name of and for the benefit of a child not the recipient of public services whose custodian has applied for services for the child; or
  5. One who is alleged to be the father.

See O.C.G.A. 19-7-43.

Child Legitimation Georgia

A legitimation action is the way that a biological father seeks to establish his parental rights, when they have not yet otherwise been established. Generally, when a child is not born in wedlock, the parental rights of a father can only be established through a court order. Those proceedings are initiated by the father filing for legitimation and can only be initiated by a “putative” father, meaning a father who claims or is assumed to be the biological father of a child born out of wedlock, but does not yet have any legal parental rights. Proving that one is the biological father is not the only issue, however. A Court can deny a putative father’s request for legitimation if he failed to establish a relationship with the child or failed to financially support the child. And thus, a mother may challenge or contest a request for legitimation. Once a child is “legitimated,” the father has all of the same rights and obligations as the father of a child born in wedlock and the child can inherit from the father. Those rights can include custody or parenting time and the obligations will always include child support. 

 To get help with the legitimation process in Georgia, contact the expert attorneys at Shockley Dodson Deeb today.

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