In order to obtain legal rights as a father in Georgia you have to legitimize your child. If you were not married to the child’s mother when the child was born, without legitimization you have no rights to the child in Georgia. This may seem like a silly statement but before even beginning the legitimization process, it is a good idea to have a DNA test performed, if possible. Depending on the situation, the legitimization process may be an involved one and require several steps to be fulfilled. Knowing the true paternity at the outset can alleviate a lot of headache later.
There are many benefits to legitimization. Besides the legal rights of the father, such as being able to petition for custody and visitation, legitimization serves many purposes for the child. There are things that many people do not even think about that legitimization provides. Legitimization allows the child to inherit from their father. Legitimization also allows the child access to medical history from the father’s side of the family and allows the child to be placed in the care of a relative of the father if the mother is unable to care for the child. Georgia has made the legitimization process somewhat easier. Since 2005, when signing a voluntary paternity acknowledgement, in the same document, the parents can legitimize the child.
If legitimization is not completed within the voluntary paternity acknowledgment form, then you must petition the court in order to legitimate the child. The process for legitimization in Georgia can be found in O.C.G.A §19-7-22. A legitimization needs to be filed in the mother’s county of residence by going to the clerk of the superior court because that is where the child resides. If the mother is out of state or her whereabouts are unknown, then the petition may be filed in the father’s county of residence. If there is an open adoption preceding, the petition must be filed in the county where the adoption is taking place.
The petition for legitimization must state the name, age, and sex of the child, the name of the mother, and if the father desires to change the child’s name, the new name. The mother of the child will be then given notice (served) that the father has filed a petition to legitimate the child. The mother can file objections to the legitimization if she wants. Once the mother has been served a hearing is requested and after the hearing takes place the judge will issue an order either legitimating the child or not legitimating the child. Legitimization petitions are usually granted unless it is show that the father is unfit.
A petition for legitimization can be filed pro se (own your own, without an attorney’s help) as it is a fairly easy process but it is best to contact a lawyer to make sure that it is done properly. This is especially true if you have a unique situation such as the mother contesting the legitimization or if the mother has an attorney. It is also best to have a lawyer if there has been family violence between you, your children or the mother or you are unable to locate the mother (the “Respondent”) to have her served with this action. Finally you will need an attorney if your child’s mother was married at the time your child was conceived or born. If you have questions about the legitimization process or would like for us to represent you please call the Boddie Law Firm at (404) 287-2393.
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