Let’s say a child is born and the parents were either not married when the child was conceived, or were not married when the child was born, or have not married since the child was born. In that scenario, the child is “born out of wedlock”. When this is the case, the father will need to commence what is known as the legitimation process in order to establish parental rights to the child. The father can also seek to prove that he is the biological father to a child he believes to be his child.

A child born out of wedlock is automatically legitimated by Georgia law IF the father marries the mother. However, if the parties do not marry, the father has no right to custody or visitation of the child without legitimation. This is even despite the fact that Georgia law requires that the child be supported by the father financially, with or without legitimation. Without legitimation, mothers have sole custody of children born out of wedlock and those children, unless legitimized, do not automatically have the right to inherit from their fathers.

How does the father legitimate his child? One way to legitimate a child is to marry the mother, as long as the mother was not married at the time the child was conceived or born. If the mother was married to someone else at the time the child was conceived or born, then the father cannot simply legitimate the child by marrying the mother. He must legitimate the child using one of a few other possible processes. One such process to legitimate is by filing a Petition for Legitimation. The father should have the assistance of a qualified attorney when filing and preparing this Petition. The mother must be formally served with the Petition and she will have the right to attend the relevant court hearing. In the hearing, the father must provide evidence to the court that legitimation is in the child’s best interest. The petition is usually filed in the Superior Court of the county where the mother lives, but there are some exceptions to this rule.

In most legitimation cases, the judge will also order the father to pay child support if the father is not already providing such. If the father makes a request to change the child’s name or have his name added to the child’s birth certificate, the judge can order this. It is also in the judge’s discretion to award the father with custody if he requests.

Speak with us at Cansino Blanchette Law Firm, LLC at (404) 997-8470 to schedule your consultation so that we can discuss your options. “Let our experience work for you.”