In Georgia, a father can be the biological and/or legal parent of a child, but they are two separate things. The difference between being a biological father versus a legal father is that paternity identifies a man as the biological father of a child but does not grant him any sort of legal rights with regard to his children. If a child’s parents were not married when their child was born, the father has no legal right to the child. If the father would like to have legal rights to custody or visitation, the father will first need to go through a process called Legitimation.
A paternity action is generally filed by a child’s mother to determine who the biological father is in order to establish a child support order. If you are a mother who wants to get child support, you may file for child support and paternity either through Child Support Services or in Superior Court.
If the mother files a Petition for Paternity’, then the court will use DNA testing in order to identify the child’s biological father. Afterward, the court will determine the father’s responsibility for child support payments.
It should be noted that a determination of paternity does not grant a father permission to visit the child or have custody. If you are a father who is served with an action for paternity, you may ask for a paternity test in order to make sure you are actually the father. You may also want to consider filing for legitimation.
If you are a father who wants to establish a legal relationship with your child, you will be required to file a Legitimation action with the courts. Just having your name as father on the child’s birth certificate or being determined as the biological father in a paternity action will not be enough to give you legal rights to your child.
As a reminder: Just legitimating your child will not give you visitation rights. If you want custody and/or visitation, then you will have to file a “Petition for Custody and Visitation” along with your Petition for Legitimation.
Seek Legal Representation
Whether you are a father who is trying to establish legal rights to your child or a mother who wants to establish the father’s legal responsibilities, it is important to seek help and guidance from a lawyer to find out how you can protect your child and your rights.
We are here to answer your questions and guide you through the legitimation and paternity process. Give us a call today to discuss your next steps!