Finding out as a new father that you have no legal standing, even if you have previously been involved in a child’s life, can be devastating. Fathers who were not married to the mothers of their children at the time of the birth have few legal rights regarding those children. Legitimation is the way a father can legally claim parentage of a child born “out of wedlock” under Georgia law, Title 19, Article 2, Section 19-7-22. This legal process ensures that a father has legal rights to his child above and beyond the acknowledgment of paternity. Learn how you can secure your legal rights to your child by taking the affirmative step of establishing legitimation.
What is Legitimation?
Legitimation is a legal action taken through the courts in Georgia. Other than marrying the mother of the child, this is the only way a father can establish legal rights to a child. Only the biological father may establish legitimation through a legal petition. Having a father’s name listed on a birth certificate is not enough to establish certain legal rights of a father to the child. Additionally, without legitimation, you could be barred from being granted any type of legal custody to your child, yet still be required to pay child support if you took a DNA test. Establishing legitimation provides you the benefits and legal rights to your child.
What is the Effect of Legitimation?
After successfully establishing legitimation, a father-child relationship exists legally in the state of Georgia. The father will then be listed on the birth certificate if he was not previously listed. Legitimation establishes legal rights, such as the child’s right to inherit from the father, and allows a father to enforce and assert any visitation and custody rights with his child. A DNA test, a name listed on a birth certificate, or continued involvement in your child’s life will not legally establish these rights.
What is the Legitimation Process?
A Petition for Legitimation must be filed in the Georgia county of the child’s residence and costs approximately $80. The following are possible scenarios regarding the legitimation process:
- If the mother consents, both parents can sign the legitimation documents and receive approval immediately.
- If the mother disputes the litigation, or if another father claims the right to legitimation, the opposing party is served with process, and discovery may be necessary. A court hearing may even be involved. Depending on the severity of the dispute, and the facts involved, this process could take quite some time.
- If child custody issues arise, the legitimation process could take much longer. Contacting an experienced family law attorney can help with this process.
The state of Georgia will take into account the best interests of the child, the paternity of the child, the fitness of the father, the relationship that exists between a father and child, and if the mother contests or consents to the legitimation into account as it makes its decision regarding legitimation.
Contact a Family Law Attorney
Georgia Law, Title 19, Section 2, 19-7-25 states that a mother has all rights to the child unless and until a father legally legitimates the child as his own through the courts. If you are a father who is seeking legal rights to your child, you may feel frustrated and overwhelmed, especially if your legitimation efforts are in dispute by the mother. Contact an experienced family law attorney at Charlton & Glover today at 770-993-1005 or online for a free consultation and to help you understand your rights.