One of the most frequently asked questions in our law firm is how in the world can a father’s name be on the birth certificate, and they aren’t allowed custody or visitation? The answer is simple: it’s not enough to prove paternity (i.e. you’re the biological father) in Georgia. You must also establish legitimation.
Legitimation is the process by which a father shows that he has a significant relationship with his child, thus enabling him to request custody and visitation rights. Just because you are the biological father does not imply a significant relationship.
The Easiest Way Is to Get Married
If the parents are married when the child is born, the child is automatically considered legitimate. Also, if the child was conceived when the parents were married and then they got a divorce before the child was born, the child is still considered legitimate.
What gets tricky is a child that is born to unwed parents. If the parents were not married at the time of conception or the time of birth, and they have not gotten married since the child was born, then the father will have to prove legitimation to the court. Otherwise, the mother gets sole custody of the child.
In addition, without legitimation, the child does not automatically have the right of inheritance from the father. The father also has no right to custody or visitation. The father still has the responsibility to financially support the child.
You Must Petition the Court
In order to show legitimation, you must file a Petition for Legitimation with the court. Your attorney can help you put together documentation that proves you have been significantly involved with your child.
Keep in mind that you must properly place the mother in notice of your petition as she has the right to attend every proceeding. As with all matters pertaining to children, just because you file a petition does not mean you will be automatically granted rights. The court always strives to make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Your attorney can also tell you what will not work on a legitimation petition. Here are some examples of things that do not establish legitimation:
- Being willing to pay child support or alimony.
- Having your name on the birth certificate
- Naming the child in your last will or testament.
- Enrolling the child in school
An Attorney Is Your Best Ally
If you are faced with the prospect of legitimating your child, the best step you can take is to hire an attorney. They can guide you through the process and ensure that you put your best foot forward with the court. After all, there’s a lot riding on this decision. If you are in Henry, Clayton, or Fayette counties, and are in the process of establishing legitimation, Family Matters Law Group can help. We have years of experience helping with fathers’ rights. Contact us online or call us today!