When a child is born out of wedlock in Georgia, the mother is automatically granted legal rights over the child, but the father is not. As the father, you must take legal action to gain parental rights, a procedure called legitimation.

Legitimation options for Georgia fathers

There are three ways for a father to legitimate his child and obtain parental rights. The first is to marry the mother of his biological child. Secondly, the parents can sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. If the mother will not sign the acknowledgment of paternity, the father may file a petition for an Order of Legitimation. There is a fee for filing, though if you cannot afford it, you can ask the court to waive the fee using a document called the Poverty Affidavit.

Orders of Legitimation

In the petition, the father identifies the child or children involved and asks the court to recognize that they are his legitimate child or children. The petitioner can ask the court to have the child’s birth certificate amended to reflect this fact, and have the child’s last name changed to the father’s. You can also use the petition to request the court to issue a child custody and visitation order and a child support order. The order can also direct the parents related to the child’s health care expenses.

If the court approves the petition and issues the order, you will gain the right to shared custody or visitation time with your child. You will also gain legal custody, which gives the right to make important decisions about the child’s life, along with their mother. For example, you will have a say in where your child will go to school, who their doctor will be, and what religion in which they will be raised, if any.

Finally, the order will also establish your responsibilities toward the child. If you are ordered to pay child support and fail to pay, you will face the same potential punishments as any other parent.

Make sure you make the best case for legitimation

As with any other family law matter, the advice and assistance of an attorney can help you avoid mistakes and present your best possible case before the court.