A father establishes parental rights by a process called legitimation. Georgia Code § 19-7-22 provides that paternity must be established before a father can be granted custody and visitation rights to his child.
The child of unwed parents is considered illegitimate prior to legitimation. If the child’s parents were never married to each other, the biological father can use this extremely important legal process to establish a parent-child relationship and obtain custody and parental rights of a child born out of wedlock.
The only ways to establish paternity under current Georgia law are:
When a biological father doesn’t undergo the legitimation process, they are denied their child visitation rights. They also cannot obtain any custody rights to the child. The father, however, can still be held responsible for supporting the child financially.
Some fathers mistakenly believe that they can perform certain actions that will substitute for going through the legitimation process. The following are some activities that will NOT give you paternity and legitimation rights to your child:
A father has no legal relationship with his child until his paternity and parental rights have been established through the legitimation process. He cannot exercise his custody or visitation rights nor make decisions on behalf of his child.
If you and the mother of your child were never married, the mother is granted all custody and visitation rights under Georgia law. She can deny visitation even if you are providing financial support for your child. This makes it necessary to file your legitimation case and get a court order to establish your parental rights to your child.
In your petition for legitimation, you can request custody, visitation, and parenting time. The court may grant you these rights after determining that legitimation is suitable. You have a better prospect of obtaining custody or a substantial amount of parenting time if you file your legitimation case as soon as possible.
Only the biological father may file a legal petition seeking to legitimate his child. An order of legitimation allows the child’s biological father to be listed on the birth certificate as the legal father of the child. It establishes that the child will be able to inherit from their legal father and vice versa.
Both the child’s parents have equal standing to request custody once the legitimation order is granted. There is no presumption in favor of the mother as is widely held. Many fathers have filed petition for legitimation and were successful in obtaining custody.
The legitimation process is complicated. You must seek the advice of an experienced Atlanta legitimation attorney who can expertly guide you through this process. A petition for legitimation must be filed in the county where the child’s mother (or legal guardians) reside.
The mother of your child will receive a formal notice since she has the right to attend court proceedings. The court will only grant the legitimation order once they have determined that awarding you custody is in the best interest of the child.
At the legitimation hearing the judge will grant or not grand the father legitimation. The judge may order the father to pay child support to the child’s mother. The judge can also deal with other legitimation-related matters including making custody and visitation decisions as well as changing the child’s name.
Our skilled and knowledgeable legal team at Attorney Sharon Jackson, LLC will advise you how to approach the paternity and legitimation process. We have seen many successful results in our years of representing fathers in Atlanta legitimation proceedings. Your first step towards knowing your rights is to consult with one of our family law attorneys regarding filing a petition for paternity or legitimation.
We can assess your situation, inform you of current applicable laws, and discuss how we might represent you. We will explain your legal rights and help you decide whether pursuing legitimation is in your best interest as a parent. We are committed to making the process easier so you and your family can reach the best possible outcome.
Call us today at (678) 909-4100 to schedule an initial consultation and learn how we can help you. You can also contact us online to discuss your case.