If a child is born to unmarried parents in Georgia, the child must be legitimated. This means the child’s father is designated as the child’s legal parent with all the rights that it entails. A father has no rights to their child if their child is not legitimated.
Still, not all fathers get around to legitimation. This is especially true if a father has been in a happy, committed relationship with his child’s mother for years and he has been raising their child as his own since the child’s birth.
However, even good relationships can eventually sour. For a father who never legitimated his child, this can be bad news. The father has no custody rights to his child.
In fact, his child’s mother could cut off all contact and move to another state and without legitimation, there is nothing he can do about it. This is why legitimation in Georgia is so important.
When must you legitimate your child?
A child must be legitimated under three conditions. First, the child’s parents must not have been married when the child was conceived, they must not have been married when the child was born, and they must not have married since the child’s birth.
Legitimation is a court process. Certain activities that may seem like legitimation do not satisfy the legal requirements of legitimation.
For example, getting a paternity test showing you are the child’s father does not legitimate your child. Paying child support does not legitimate your child.
Signing your child’s birth certificate does not legitimate your child. Even signing a voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity does not legitimate your child.
How to legitimate your child
The first step in legitimating your child is to file a petition with the Superior Court in the mother’s county of residence. Following that, a hearing will be scheduled.
Your child’s mother will receive notification of the hearing and she has the right to attend if she wishes.
Your hearing will be held. But just because you petitioned for a hearing does not mean your child automatically be legitimated. Legitimation will only be granted if it is in the best interests of the child.
At your legitimation hearing, the judge can also:
- Order child support
- Add your name to your child’s birth certificate
- Settle custody and visitation issues
It is essential that fathers legitimate their child as soon as possible. Doing so preserves their parental rights and ensures they can have a continuing relationship with their child even if their relationship with their child’s mother comes to an end.