Paternity & Legitimation

Because many births now occur to single mothers, there are legal issues pertinent to that situation.

Paternity
In Georgia, a petition to establish a father's paternity of a child may be brought by the child, the mother or any relative in whose care the child has been placed. A petition can be brought by the individual who is alleged to be the father. Even the Department of Human Services can bring a petition to establish paternity in the name of and for the benefit of the child.

A petition can be brought to determine paternity before or after the birth of the child at issue.

Any time there is a question of a child's paternity, the Department of Human Services may order the mother, the alleged father and/or the child or children to submit to genetic tests. The Department of Human Services must give the parties notice of the petition.

Paternity suits involving celebrities often make headlines. These frequently involve athletes, musicians, actors and even wealthy businessmen. One of the mother's reasons for suing a father who may not know of the child or want to be involved in his or her life is that once paternity has been established, the father becomes subject to an order from the court for payment of child support. When the father is a very high income earner, the child support award may be high enough to allow the mother to stay home with the child full time and not work outside the home.

After the paternity of the father has been established, he can petition the court for legitimation, which puts the father on equal legal standing with the mother in regard to legal rights to the child.

Legitimation
In Georgia, when a father wants legal claim to his child, he must petition the court to legitimize that child under Georgia Code § 19-7-22.

Only a biological father can bring a legitimation action. When the child has been legitimized, both the mother and father have equal legal claim to the child. The father can ask for visitation. He will also be subject to child support payments.

In a separate action, apart from a child custody action, the father must petition the court for legitimation and provide the mother with proper notice of such petition. The mother has the right to object to the legitimation action and may present a defense as to why the child should not be legitimized. The purpose of the legitimation process is to provide legal ties between the child born out of wedlock and the father.

Schedule An Appointment At Our Alpharetta Office

Call Hecht Family Law in Alpharetta at 678-926-9234 if you are facing an issue regarding the paternity or legitimation of your child. Together we can review the current laws on paternity and legitimation and determine the best course of action.