When is a child born out of wedlock and when is a child legitimate?
A child is "born out of wedlock" if the child's parents
1) were not married when the child was conceived,
2) were not married when the child was born, and
3) have not married since the child was born.
A child is automatically considered legitimate if the child was born when the parents were married. If a child was conceived during the parents' marriage and they divorced before the child was born, that child is still considered legitimate. If parents marry after a child is born, that child is considered legitimate.
What is legitimation?
Legitimation is the process that fathers use (other than marriage to the mother) to establish parental rights to their children who were born out of wedlock. Without legitimation, such fathers have no right to custody or visitation of those children (although the laws say they have the obligation to support them financially). Without legitimation, mothers have sole custody of children born out of wedlock. Also, children born out of wedlock do not automatically have the right to inherit from their fathers.
What is NOT legitimation?
Besides legitimation, there are several ways to establish that a man is the biological father of a child. However, unless a man has legitimated his child, he has not established his parental rights to his child. Here are some examples of things that are NOT a legitimation: 1) enrolling the child in school, 2) being named the father in a paternity test, 3) agreeing to or being ordered to pay child support, 4) naming the child in the father's last will and testament, or 5) and, prior to 2008, signing the child's birth certificate.
How do you legitimate a child?
There are 2 basic ways to legitimate a child (other than marriage to the mother):
1) The father can file a Petition for Legitimation with the courts. The mother must be formally notified and she has the right to attend the court hearing. Fathers who file such a Petition do not have the absolute right to have the judge sign an order legitimating the child. The court will only legitimate the child if the court believes that the legitimation is in the child's best interests
2) Both parents can sign a voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form and agree in that form to legitimate the child. This form should be available at the hospital when the child is born and also at any Vital Records office in Georgia, but may only be filed if the child is less than one year of age, if the mother was unmarried ten months prior to the birth and the birth certificate does not list another man as the father of the child.
Where should I file a Petition for Legitimation?
The Petition for Legitimation is usually filed in the Superior Court in the county where the mother lives. Sometimes, if the mother cannot be found or lives out of state, the petition can be filed in the county where the father lives. If there is an adoption pending, the legitimation should be filed where the adoption is pending. The petition can be filed in Juvenile court if there is already an active juvenile court case regarding the child. To have the legitimation decided at the same time as a paternity case, the father can file a "third-party" Petition for Legitimation.
Other than legitimate the child, what else can the judge do?
In most legitimation cases, the judge will also order child support. If the father requests to change the child's name or to have his name added to the child's birth certificate, the judge can order this. If the father asks for custody or visitation, the judge can also decide these issues.
Can I get custody or visitation when I legitimate my child with a statement in an Acknowledgment of Paternity form?
No, the mother continues to have the sole right to custody and visitation until a court orders a different custody or visitation arrangement. If you legitimate your child through a statement in an Acknowledgment of Paternity, you must file a separate petition with the court to ask for custody or visitation.
Where can I get proof that I have legitimated my child by consent in a Paternity Acknowledgment?
Under Georgia law, a court order is required before a copy of a paternity acknowledgment can be issued.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF PATERNITY: The Putative Father Registry
What is the Putative Father Registry?
The Registry is a statewide service that lists the names of men who have acknowledged Paternity of a child or acknowledged the possibility of paternity of a child.
Why do I need the Putative Father Registry?
You should consider registering on the Putative Father Registry if:
You believe that you might be the father of a child
Your child's mother is preventing you from having contact with your child
You don't know where your minor child is living
You are in a relationship (or have been) and there is any possibility you may have fathered a child
The Putative Father Registry can help you find out about any adoptions that may be filed regarding the child. The Registry gives you a way of providing an address to receive notice of other court proceedings that try to terminate your parental rights to the child.
How do I register?
The Registry is maintained by the Vital Records section of the Georgia Department of Human Resources. The Putative Father Registry contains the name, address and social security number of anyone who claims he is or claims he may be the father of a child.
You must submit a form for your name to appear on the Registry.
The registration form simply indicates the possibility that you may have fathered a child.
Be aware that if your name appears on the Registry, the information on the registry may be used to help establish your child support obligations to the child.
If I acknowledge paternity on the registry, can I deny it later?
Signing into the Registry does not count as a "formal" acknowledgment of paternity. That is a separate document. If you have also prepared and submitted and Acknowledgment of Paternity, generally, you can rescind or 'undo' your acknowledgment of paternity any time before a child support or other order is entered that establishes that you are the father of the child. If the mother also signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity, agreeing that you were the father of the child, your ability to deny paternity is more limited. In that case, you can have up to 60 days to rescind or 'undo' your acknowledgment of paternity. Within that 60-day period, you can rescind or 'undo' your acknowledgment any time unless a court enters an order determining that you are the father. If you discover you are not the child's father after the 60-day period or after a court order, then you should speak to an attorney about filing a court case to rescind or 'undo' your acknowledgment of paternity.
Where can I get the registration form?
You can find a Putative Father Registry Registration Form in any county Vital Records Registrar's Office, in county Health Departments, in Probate Court offices or at the State Office of Vital Records. Only a putative father may add his information to the Registry and registering is FREE.
You may also obtain the form online the form online from the Department of Human Resources, Division of Vital Records.
Thank you to Atlanta Legal Aid for the information.