Schedule An Appointment
Georgia Divorce Attorney Fees
Video Podcast Library

Georgia Paternity and Legitimation

In Georgia, it is necessary to file a paternity action in order to legally legitimize a child born out of wedlock.  While merely signing the child’s birth certificate is strong evidence of paternity, it is insufficient to establish a legal relationship with the child.  A paternity action can be brought by the mother or the alleged father.  Once paternity is established, the father will have the same legal rights as a married father.  In that regard, the father will be entitled to visitation with the child and will be responsible for child support to assist the mother with the costs of raising the child.  Depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case, the father may also have a case to file for custody of the child.

Establishing Paternity

Paternity may be established by different types of evidence.  If the father signed the child’s birth certificate, his signature is strong evidence of his paternity.  That is to say, the father can challenge this evidence if he believes that he is not the father.  However, if the father fails to rebut or challenge the evidence, his signature will be sufficient to establish paternity.  Additionally, paternity may also be established by genetic testing.  So long as the genetic testing establishes at least a 97 percent probability of paternity, the test is legally sufficient unless it is effectively challenged by the alleged father who must provide clear and convincing evidence that the test result is invalid.

Benefits of Paternity

Paternity benefits both the father and the child.  The father is awarded parental rights to the child including the right to custody and visitation and is also responsible to assist with the cost of raising the child.  In most instances, custody will remain with the mother, but the father has the right to pursue custody if he can support his claim with sufficient evidence.  Once the child is legitimized, the child will be entitled to receive Social Security benefits from the father and be entitled to inherit from him just as if the child were born to married parents. 

In addition, legitimation has some benefits for the mother, as there is not a child support obligation in place.  Regular child support cannot be awarded retroactively, so the longer a mother may way to pursue a legitimation, the less resources she will have available to her.   While the courts usually find that it is in the best interests of the child to have two parents, there are times when mothers may object to a legitimation where it is not in the best interests of the child – for example, there has been a documented history of abuse or a violent crime has been committed against the mother or the child.

Hiring an Attorney

Paternity is an important legal issue that impacts unmarried parents as well as their child.  The Zdrilich Law Group can help navigate the legal terrain associated with paternity suits.  Contact The Zdrilich Law Group today for a consultation.