While most people are aware that paternity is automatically established if the parents are legally married at the time of the child's birth or that it can be established via DNA testing conducted by the Georgia Division of Child Support Services, they may be unfamiliar with how the process works in relation to unwed parents who agree on this frequently contentious issue.
In general, unwed parents are presented with the opportunity to sign a document known as the Paternity Acknowledgement form either shortly before or after the birth of the child at the hospital. This document, once executed, establishes certain rights and responsibilities for the child, and creates the legal presumption that the signee is indeed the father.
Specifically, signing the PA form means that the father's name will be added to the child's birth certificate, and vests him with certain rights, including the right to be notified of any adoption proceedings, the right to be notified of any proceedings relating to the termination of parental rights, and, most significantly, the right to pursue child custody and visitation.
Furthermore, it also establishes that he will be legally responsible for paying child support and helping provide health insurance until the child is 18 years old (and perhaps beyond).
As for the child, the signing of the PA form provides considerable benefits, including the ability to rely on two avenues of financial support going forward, the ability to collect insurance and/or Social Security benefits from their father, the ability to inherit from the father's estate and, perhaps most significantly, the ability to form lasting emotional bonds with two parents.
As a final note, an unwed father should know that while signing the PA form is indeed voluntary, the decision not to do so won't mean they are able to escape responsibility, as the matter will be turned over to the DCSS. Furthermore, they should be aware that they do have up to 60 days to rescind the PA form after signing, but that more legal action will likely be required.
If you have concerns relating to the establishment of paternity, or would like some answers concerning a child custody or child support matter, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.