While this website was created as one for criminal defense law, I also practice heavily in the field of family law. Our primary firm website can be found at www.newnanlaw.com.
LEGITIMATIONS of children born out of wedlock are a topic that I get a lot of questions about. A father has no legal rights to a child born out of wedlock without legitimating the child. Signing the birth certificate does NOT legitimate a child. Issues typically come up when a mother withholds the child from the father or when a father wants to establish a set visitation schedule so as to not be at the mercy of the mother. Georgia may be the only state in the country where establishing paternity of a child born out of wedlock does not establish a legal father/child relationship. Once again, a legal relationship can only be created by legitimating the child. The legal rights established by legitimation include, but are not limited to, the right of the child to inherit from the father, the right of the child to collect from the father's social security benefits, the right of the father or a relative of the father to care for the child if the mother is unable to do so, and the right to custody and visitation. The establishment of paternity simply establishes the biological condition of being a father, which is required in order to have the father pay child support. Legitimation can only be established in one of two ways. (1) The father and mother sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Legitimation. This can be done at the hospital, but it is entirely different from signing the birth certificate. Legitimating a child through voluntary acknowledgment must be done before the child turns 1 year of age. In addition, there are several other situations that might render this method unavailable to a father. If a child is legitimated through voluntary acknowledgment, it does not establish custody or visitation. (2) The other method of legitimating a child is by filing a Legitimation Petition either in Superior Court or in Juvenile Court if the child is the subject of a dependency proceeding. There is not an absolute right to legitimation. A father must be found to have not given up his opportunity interest, which can be done by failing to have meaningful contact with the child and by not supporting the child. If you have any additional questions or would like to inquire about either initiating a legitimation proceeding or defending against one, please call for a an appointment at 770-288-9310.