What is Paternity?
Paternity is the legal process of establishing the identity of a child's biological father. In Georgia, if a couple is married at the time of birth, the husband is considered to be the biological father. If a couple is unmarried at the time of delivery, a man can acknowledge paternity by signing the Voluntary Acknowledgment Form at the hospital.
A paternity action is where the mother, biological father, a state agency, guardian, etc. seek to establish a child's paternity. An order establishing paternity will trigger the child support obligation. It is important to note that while establishing paternity triggers a financial commitment, it does not grant the biological father visitation or other rights associated with being a parent (custodial rights). That involves a different process called legitimation.
In uncontested actions, the mother and father may sign an affidavit attesting to the child's paternity.
If a paternity action is contested, the party petitioning to establish paternity may present the following evidence in support of the case:
Testimony of the mother and/or the father
The testimony of an expert regarding the time of conception;
The results of a legally admissible genetic or D.N.A. test
See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-47(a), 19-7-46(d)
Legitimation is the legal process by which a father establishes parental rights/legal relationship for a child born out of wedlock (to unmarried couple). Legitimation will establish a person as the legal father, provide rights regarding custody and visitation, trigger child support obligations, and result in the child being able to take the father's last name.
There is an Acknowledgment of Legitimation section at the bottom of the Voluntary Acknowledgment form parents receive after a child's birth. This section is voluntary, so a person could choose to sign the top portion and only acknowledge paternity or sign both parts and achieve both paternity and legitimation. O.C.G.A. §19-7-21.1. Note: This section does not apply if the child is over one year of age when the document is signed.
If the legitimation is not achieved in this manner, the father may file a Petition for Legitimation and act quickly. If he does not respond timely, the court may find that the delay was unreasonable and the opportunity for legitimation passed.
Navigating this process may be complicated, so it is advisable to seek legal counsel. L.Q. Law, P.C. is here to advocate for your rights.