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Legitimation and Paternity

Family Law Specialist

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Attorney Chris McCormick can help you establish your legal rights and access to your child for unwed parents in paternity and legitimation actions, such as petitioning for custody, child support, and visitation.

In Georgia, a biological unwed father can only be legally recognized either by marrying the child’s mother or by an order of legitimation being granted by the Court. This process usually involves a DNA test to prove the paternity of the father.

Legitimation provides a wide array of benefits and options to both the mother and the father: the child is able to inherit from the father and the father can inherit from the child; child support can be determined; visitation can be granted, including custody to either parent.

Georgia's Petition for Legitimation is an often misunderstood requirement when it comes to children born out-of-wedlock. When the relationship comes to an end, there can be ongoing struggle to keep active role in the life of the child born to an unmarried couple.

How can a father exercise his parental rights?


If the father and mother were not married at the time the child was born, or have not married since, then Georgia does NOT automatically extend parental rights to the biological father. However, he is still required to pay child support for the minor child.

Note: If thirty (30) days passes without the father providing any financial support for the minor child, the mother may apply for a criminal warrant for the misdemeanor charge of "abandonment." To have any legal parental, the father must first bring a legitimation proceeding before the Superior Court.

The majority of legitimation actions are brought by a biological father seeking visitation rights, custody, or some input into the upbringing of the minor child. Sometimes a father will bring a legitimation action as a form of retaliation against the mother, but this is rare.

The Petition for Legitimation will contain language in which the biological father asserts that he is, in fact, the biological father of the minor child. The petition will include language indicating that the Plaintiff or Petitioner "desires that the minor child be declared the legitimate son (or daughter) of the Plaintiff, capable of inheriting from the Plaintiff in the same manner as if born in lawful wedlock".

Courts normally grant legitimation petitions. However, Courts typically oppose or deny legitimation petitions in cases in which the father has failed to provide any support for the minor child, and has shown no active interest in participating in the child's life.

If the biological mother opposes the legitimation of the minor child, both parties will need to produce evidence to support their arguments for or against the granting of the petition.

If legitimation is granted, the court will then discuss visitation, child support, primary physical custody and/or legal custody, depending on what relief the Plaintiff is seeking.

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