LEGITIMATION OF CHILDREN IN GEORGIA

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.

FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS (FSTs)

There will no doubt be many posts about DUI law, but I figured I would kick off my first post with a brief one on Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), which include such classics as the one-leg stand, the walk and turn, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), and the use of portable breath testing devices (note-the roadside device is not the breathalyzer that you might be asked to take after being arrested on suspicion of DUI--the roadside can only be used against you in a limited manner). First, I in no way approve of impaired driving, but even a few drinks with dinner could land you in a position to be asked to take these tests, so everyone needs to be prepared for how to handle things. Do not take them. I would politely decline due to the highly subjective nature of the tests, which are used to determine if there is enough probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Taking them simply provides evidence for the officer to arrest and later convict you. Believe it or not, the State regularly proceeds on DUI cases when one performs poorly on field sobriety yet blows or blood tests below the legal limit of .08. Whether you take FSTs or not, If the officer decides to arrest you for DUI you will then be asked to take a state administered test (blood, breath, urine, or a combination thereof). The decision on whether or not to submit is a topic for another day, but, in my opinion, that decision is a complicated one that depends on several factors and it has major driver's license ramifications. I'll end with a quick story. I became certified in FSTs with mostly new law enforcement officers, and our final exam of sorts was to perform FSTs on actual drunk people. It was a good time and very educational. Anyhow, every student had to make a decision on whether to arrest for DUI or not. The blood alcohol content (BAC) of the drinkers was tested both before and after the exercise. In the end, we found out the BAC of the drinkers and it turned out that several students would have arrested a drinker who had actually not had a drop of alcohol. That is how subjective these tests are.