So you're about to become a dad — congratulations! Getting ready for a new baby is a big job, but if you and the baby's mother are not married, there is one important task you need to take care of. You need to establish paternity and go through the process of legitimating your child. If you don't, you will have no legal rights regarding the care and custody of the child.
In Georgia, when your child is born outside of a marriage, the mother is the only person allowed to have legal or physical custody of the child. There are no automatic fathers' rights. This is true even if you live with the mother or have been in a committed relationship for several years.
If you want to have a legal relationship with your own child, you must legitimate your child.
WE CAN HELP YOU! Contact our Lawrenceville law office at 770-604-1380.
1.) Establish Paternity
Paternity establishes a man as the biological father of a child. Georgia law provides three different routes for establishing paternity.
The easiest way is for both you and your child's mother to sign a document called a "voluntary acknowledgement of paternity" and file it with the Department of Human Resources. If one parent refuses to sign the document, either parent can go to court to bring an action to establish paternity.
In other cases, the Department of Human Resources may bring an action on its own to determine the paternity of a child.
Paternity establishes a duty to pay child support. It does not give you a right to seek visitation or custody of your child.
2.) Legitimate Your Child
An unwed Georgia father who wishes to establish legal rights to a child must go through a process called "legitimation." It is very important to note that simply putting the father's name on the child's birth certificate does not create a legal relationship.
As with paternity, the easiest way for you to legitimate your child is for both you and the mother to complete the "legitimation" section on the paternity acknowledgment form.
If the mother does not consent to your attempt to legitimate your child, you can bring a legitimation action in Superior Court and seek custody and/or visitation.
Be Proactive — Protect Yourself and Your Child
Georgia grants almost no automatic rights to a father of a child born outside of a marriage. If you are planning to have a child, start discussing paternity and legitimation with your child's mother now. If your child has already been born, know that it is never too late to protect your rights.
If you want to establish a legal relationship with your child born out of wedlock, call our office so we can help you understand your options.
From our office in Lawrenceville, our attorneys represent clients in communities throughout Gwinnett County and Walton County, Georgia. Call us at 770-604-1380 or contact us by email to arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced Lawrenceville fathers' rights lawyers today.