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FAQ: Paternity and Legitimation

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What is the difference between paternity and legitimation in Georgia?

Georgia law establishes two different levels of the relationship between a father and a child born out of wedlock: paternity and legitimation. Paternity establishes who the biological father of the child is, and obligates the father to pay child support. Legitimation goes one step forward beyond paternity and establishes the legal relationship (parental rights) to the child, and gives the father standing in court to be able to request custody or visitation.

I am listed as the father on my child’s birth certificate. Doesn’t that mean I have legal or parental rights to my child?

No, even though you are listed on your child’s birth certificate you do not have any legal or parental rights to your child in Georgia. You must still file to legitimate your child in order to have any legal rights such as visitation or custody.

However, being listed on your child’s birth certificate voluntarily can establish an acknowledgement of paternity by the father and obligate the father to start paying child support even where a paternity test has not been done yet.

Who can file a petition to establish paternity in Georgia?

The child’s father, the child’s mother, any relative in whose care the child has been placed, Georgia Child Support Services, and anyone who is alleged to be the child’s father.

Can the parties, the mother and alleged father, be ordered by the court to genetic testing to determine paternity?

Yes, the court may order the mother, father and child to submit to genetic testing to determine paternity.

I received paternity results and I am the biological father. Do I still have to file for legitimation?

Yes, even though you have received paternity results indicating that you are the child’s father, you still must file for legitimation in order to have any legal rights to your child. Paternity only establishes that you are the child’s biological father. Under Georgia law, paternity alone does not vest you with any legal rights such as visitation or child custody rights. Paternity is only one step in the legitimation process.

Georgia Child Support Enforcement filed a petition to establish the paternity of my child and now I have to start paying child support, but I don’t have custody or visitation rights. Is that legal?

Yes, under Georgia law paternity and legitimation are distinct from one another. Paternity only establishes who the biological father is and obligates the father to pay child support. Issues of name changes, visitation and custody will not be addressed by the court in a paternity action filed by Georgia Child Support Services. A separate petition for legitimation must be filed before the court will address any issues such as custody or visitation.

Who can file for legitimation in Georgia?

Only a biological father, not a step-parent or grandparent, may bring forth a legitimation action in Georgia.

Where do I file for legitimation?

The legitimation petition is generally filed in the county where the child’s mother lives or where the other party having legal custody or guardianship of the child lives.

Can the mother contest a petition for legitimation?

Yes, the mother can contest a petition for legitimation by alleging that the petitioner is not the biological father or that he has lost his opportunity interest to develop a relationship with the child.

Contact Macon legitimation attorney Ashley M. Brodie at (478) 239-2780 to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions regarding legitimation and paternity and how to exercise your parental rights to your children.

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