Many fathers are surprised to learn that they must go through the legitimation process to establish their legal rights as fathers under Georgia law. A dedicated family law attorney can guide fathers through the legitimation process and any additional steps necessary to achieve their goals.
The Difference Between Paternity and Legitimation
In Georgia, fathers do not automatically have any legal connection to a child unless they are married to the child’s mother at the time of birth. The biological connection of paternity can be established through a legal acknowledgement form or biological testing. Proving paternity can make the father liable for child support but does not give him any rights or establish any legal connection.
The legal connection is established through the legitimation process. To legitimate a child, a father must file a petition through the county court in the child’s county of residence. Once legitimation is complete, then the father can seek a court order for custody and parenting time and can often be done within the same case.
What Does Legitimation Mean?
A legitimation order creates a legal parent-child relationship. That relationship exists automatically when a child is born to parents who are married, but if they are not, a legitimation action is the only way to establish a legal relationship.
With an order of legitimation:
- The child gains the right to inherit from the father
- The father gains the right to inherit from the child
- The father may be listed on the child’s birth certificate
- The father gains the ability to petition for custody and parenting time
It is important to be aware that while legitimation is necessary to seek parenting time, the legitimation process does not automatically grant custody or visitation rights. Instead, it is a step toward gaining those rights.
A Legitimation Lawyer Can Help You Assert Your Rights as a Parent
The legal requirements to obtain and enforce fathers’ rights can be confusing and frustrating. Missing a step can hurt your ability to protect your family.
When you work with an experienced family law attorney from Tessie D. Edwards & Associates, P.C., we will fight to help you achieve your goals quickly and efficiently. For help with the legitimation process or any aspect of family law, contact our office now.