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Experienced Gwinnett County, GA Paternity Lawyer

Experienced Gwinnett County, GA Paternity LawyerPaternity law focuses on matters such as child custody, child legitimation, which is the acknowledgement of fatherhood, as well as the question of paternity itself. These are complicated legal issues in Georgia best handled by an experienced and compassionate paternity lawyer.

Contact Attorney Sharon Jackson today at (678) 890-4200 regarding your paternity questions

Fathers have equal standing with mothers before the law. Georgia law does not automatically favor mothers over fathers. Their courts instead place the greatest importance on what will be in the best interests of the child, regardless of the parent’s gender However, legal complications arise if the dad is not married to the biological mom, or if either parent is disputing the dad’s paternal rights. Let’s take a look at how paternity laws in Georgia work.

What Is Legitimation? Is Paternity The Same As Legitimation In Georgia?

If a child is born during marriage, the husband in that marriage is presumed to be the child’s father. But if a child is born out of wedlock, a person could find it challenging to claim that he is the legal father – even if he is named on the child’s birth certificate.

Many people assume that once a person’s paternity is established, he will automatically have legal rights as a parent. But in Georgia, there is a clear difference between paternity and legitimation.

Paternity pertains to a person’s biological fatherhood of a child, while legitimation is the legal acknowledgment of it. Being the biological father does not automatically entitle a person to legal parenting rights. To establish one’s status as a legal father, he has to accomplish the process of legitimation.

In fact, in the noted case of Ghrist v. Fricks et al., Georgia Court of Appeals concluded that “paternity and legitimation are not the same thing… [A] man has no absolute right to the grant of his petition to legitimate a child simply because he is the biological father.” Instead, the court has a “duty to inquire further into the best interests of the child” before granting parental rights to the petitioning father.

A Father’s Rights And Obligations – Paternity And Legitimation

The subject of paternity and legitimation quickly becomes thorny, especially when unmarried parents argue over questions like “Should the biological father pay child support? Can he get custody of the child?”

To answer these questions, here are some important rights and responsibilities of unwed fathers under GA law:

  • Paternity likely means paying child support. A person who is established as the biological father of a child can be made responsible for financial support payments. If the child’s mother goes to court seeking child support and equipped with positive paternity results, the court could order support payments from the dad even if he has not legitimated the child.
  • Legitimation is necessary for parenting rights. While the biological father is obligated to pay child support, his parenting rights are severely limited without legitimation. Only after the dad has legitimated his child can he, for example, legally access the child’s medical history or leave an inheritance to the child.
  • Only a legitimate parent can pursue child custody. An unmarried biological father also does not automatically have the right to pursue child custody or visitation. The father has to have his child legitimated first before he can meet the mother in court for custody or parenting time issues.
    Note that legitimation itself does not guarantee that the father wins custody. It only allows him to pursue his case in court. The custody case will still proceed normally, with each parent having to convince the judge that they can provide for the child’s best interests.

How A Father Can Legitimize A Child In Georgia

There are several options for child legitimation for an unwed father in GA:

  • If the mother is unmarried, she and the biological father can marry.
  • If the child has not yet reached the age of one and the mother is unmarried, the biological father can sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form. This document has a legitimation section at the bottom, which must be signed by both parents, notarized, and submitted to the State Office of Vital Records.
  • The above options are not available if the mother is married to someone else when the child is born. The mother’s husband is legally considered the child’s father. In this case, the person who wants to claim legal fatherhood must 1) establish paternity (typically via DNA testing), and 2) file a court petition for legitimation. He should prepare a solid argument with strong evidence that he is child’s father, especially if the mother’s husband is challenging the claim.

Contact Sharon Jackson Today

As if the laws are not tricky enough, many family situations make it difficult for parents to secure what they think is best for their child. There are fathers who are denied their rights to raise or even see their child. There are mothers who struggle without the support of their child’s father. The emotionally-charged disputes and sensitive personal matters only make these cases more challenging.

Attorney Sharon Jackson is adept at handling family law issues. Whether you want to claim your fatherhood rights, or you wish to assert someone’s parental responsibilities, Ms. Jackson can provide the legal guidance and representation you need. Call today at (678) 921-3480.


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