Fathers' Rights & Legitimation

Applicability. Under Georgia law, a child is born out of wedlock if his or her parents are not married and do not later marry, the child is a result of an adulterous relationship while the wife is married, or if the child is born after the mother marries but a divorce is sought and granted based on the premarital pregnancy.

Purpose. Legitimation proceedings seek to establish a child’s legitimacy and paternity, and the purported father is the only person who may bring this matter to the court. The father of an out of wedlock child has not legitimated the child even if the father signed the child’s birth certificate – a judge must issue an order to legitimate the child. Without legitimizing the child, a father cannot assert his visitation rights, parenting time, or custody rights over the mother’s objections. Also, the child cannot inherit from the father’s estate. However, the father still has a duty to provide child support.

Legal Standards. When considering a father’s petition for legitimation, the court must determine whether he abandoned his chance to develop a relationship with the child. The court will also consider a variety of other factors as applied to his parental fitness or the best interest of the child. For instance, if the legitimation petition is filed to contest an adoption by State-approved parents, the court would apply the parental fitness test. However, if the child already has a legally recognized father (i.e. if the child is fathered by another man, the mother marries someone else, and her husband has treated the child as his own), the court will apply the child’s best interest test.

If you have questions about legitimizing your child or children, please call our office to schedule a consultation. The information above is for general information purposes only.

Source: Georgia Divorce, Alimony & Child Custody, Dan E. McConaughey, 2011-2012 Ed., West.