Legitimation is the legal process in Georgia that a father can use to obtain legal right to his child or children. Hundreds of children are born each year to unmarried parents. When this happens in Georgia, the mother is considered the only legal parent of the child. In order for the father to obtain legal rights to the child, the father must file to legitimate the child in court.
When a father files to legitimate a child in court, he is asking the judge to declare that he is the child’s legal father. Legitimation allows the father to establish custody and/or set up a visitation schedule. This means that if a father fails to legitimate his child, he may not be entitled to custody or visit the child, even if he is already paying child support!
Legitimation is also the process that allows the father to have access to the child’s medical records and education records. This means that without legitimation, a father does not have a “say” in the child’s medical or education decisions, even if a DNA test has already proven that he is the child’s biological father.
Finally, legitimation allows the child to inherit from the father in the event that the father passes away. If the father passes away without legitimating the child, it may prove difficult for the child to receive benefits from the father’s estate, including social security benefits.
Beware! Legitimation is a completely separate legal process than paternity and child support.
Paternity can be established through a DNA test. Paternity can also be established when the father signs the child’s birth certificate and completes the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement. If paternity is established by Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment, then the child can be legitimated at that time. However, if paternity is established through a DNA test, the father usually has to complete the legitimation process to get legal rights to the child.
Child Support is typically set by the courts once paternity is established. To learn more about child support, click here. Beware that even if the father is paying child support, he does not have any legal rights to the child until he completes the legitimation process. In cases brought against fathers by Child Support Enforcement, legitimation is rarely discussed. Child Support Enforcement is only concerned with establishing paternity and/or child support. It is up to the father to ask to legitimate the child.
If you are a father and need to complete the legitimation process for your child or children, give our office a call today at (678) 390-3503. We have successfully helped fathers track down their child’s mother, serve her with court papers, establish paternity, establish custody and visitation and legitimate their child.