Legitimation in Georgia is the legal process a father must take to obtain parental rights to a child born out of wedlock. Only the biological father can petition the court for legitimation in Georgia. Prior to legitimation, the mother is vested with all parental rights. It makes no difference if the father's name is on the birth certificate or if the child has the father's last name. In Georgia, an order of legitimation is necessary for the biological father to be recognized by Georgia law as the legal father. The father, however, has no absolute right to having his petition for legitimation granted. The mother can contest the legitimation in Georgia by alleging that the petitioner is not the biological father or that he is unfit. The court will decide whether the grant a petition for legitimation in Georgia based on the best interest of the child involved. An Atlanta family law attorney can guide you through the process of obtaining an order of legitimation in Georgia.
Once the father legitimates the child, the child and the father can inherit from one another as if the child had been born in wedlock. Going through the process of legitimation in Georgia is the first step to obtaining Georgia child visitation rights or custody in Georgia. It is important to note that a father is obligated to pay child support in Georgia regardless of whether he legitimates his child. This obligation can be established by a paternity suit in Georgia. Often, however, a Georgia child support order is established at the same time as the order of legitimation in Georgia. In fact, the new Georgia child support laws require that both parties to a legitimation action file a child support worksheet.
Courts often decide visitation rights in conjunction with a petition for legitimation in Georgia. Unless the parties agree otherwise, the court will typically order standard visitation. Standard visitation in Georgia includes every other weekend (usually beginning Friday evening and ending Sunday evening), alternating holidays and a few extra weeks during the summer months. An Atlanta family law attorney can advise you as to different options for visitation.
Generally, courts cannot decide issues of custody in a Georgia legitimation proceeding. The father does have an equal right to custody once he legitimates the child, but he must bring a petition for custody in a separate action. The exceptions to this rule under Georgia law are if the mother consents to consideration of custody, if there is no other legal guardian of the child, or if the mother is deceased.
As with other matters involving children, legitimation in Georgia can be a difficult process. It is always a good idea to have an Atlanta family lawyer on your side.