What does legitimation mean under Georgia law? It is the legal process that establishes legal rights of a father to a child when the father was not married to the mother. It also establishes the legal rights of the child to the father’s estate.
In Georgia if the father and mother of a child are not married, the father does not have any legal rights to the child. It does not matter whether he is listed as the father on the birth certificate. If the parents were not married, the father will need to get an order from a court to establish his rights to the child.
Only a father (not the mother) can file the legitimation action.
The general public policy in Georgia is that it is better for a child to be legitimate than illegitimate. So generally, if the father is the biological father of the child, the Court will usually grant the legitimation.
However, there are circumstances where the biological father can lose his “opportunity interest” to the child. The factors involved in this determination include the father's action or inaction during the pregnancy and birth; whether there has been a delay in filing a legitimation; and the amount and quality of the contact with the child.
If the mother disputes that the father is the biological father a DNA test might be needed. There are specific requirements for the test so that it can be presented in court. That means the tests at the drug store will not work for court.
Within a legitimation action, the father can ask to have the child’s name changed to reflect his last name if the child has a different last name. If the child has not yet started school, the court usually grants this request. It becomes more of an issue when the child has always been known by another name and learns to write that name.
If the father is not listed on the child’s birth certificate, he can ask that he be added. This is generally granted by the Court if the child is legitimated. The father will need to do the work involved in getting the birth certificate changed after receiving the court order. The Court only issues the order, not the new birth certificate.
The Court can also consider custody, visitation, child support and attorney’s fees in a legitimation action. The considerations for these issues are similar to those of a divorce. The court considers the best interest of the child, all of the evidence presented, and the child support guidelines when making decisions on these issues.
If the father and the mother can agree on all issues, the matter can be handled faster and less expensively.
To discuss the particular circumstances in your case, please call us for a free consultation.
Nedra K. Howard
Nedra has represented clients in matters relating to divorce, separate maintenance, child custody and support, family violence protective orders, adoption, prenuptial agreements, business disputes and litigation, personal injury, property damage, and wills.
John B. MIller & Associates, P.C.
16 Eastbrook Bend, Suite 201
Peachtree City, GA 30269
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770 - 863 - 8355