No, the acknowledgement of paternity form does not mean a child is legitimated under Georgia law. Unwed parents often mistakenly believe that the father gains custodial rights to the child by signing the acknowledgement of paternity and having the father’s name included on the birth certificate. By itself, an acknowledgement of paternity does not entitle the father to visitation, custody or rights of inheritance from or to the child. Those rights must be established by the filing of the petition for legitimation with the court.
What this means is that only the mother is considered the legal parent until the father starts the legitimation process and petitions the court to establish his custodial rights to the child. This is the case even where the acknowledgement of paternity form is signed at the hospital when the child is born. Without going through the legitimation process the father has no visitation rights, no physical custody rights and no legal custody rights.
LAW CALL QUESTION
A recent caller LawCall asked whether a father still had to go through the legitimation process where the father signed the acknowledgement of paternity, was included on the birth certificate AND where the child was currently living with the father.
ASHLEY’S ANSWER: Yes, if the mother and father were never married and did not marry after the birth of the child then the child is not legitimated. The father will still have to go through the legitimation process.
Without filing a legitimation action, the father has no legal rights to the child where the parties were not married when the child was born or did not subsequently marry shortly after the birth of the child. This is still the case even though the child is now in the father’s care.