Most fathers assume that being the biological father gives them rights to a child. For unmarried parents, that is not the case in Georgia. It takes more than being a biological parent or even being on the birth certificate to be considered a parent under Georgia law.
For unmarried heterosexual couples, the parents have different rights. A mother has the benefit of automatically having legal rights to her child when the baby born. But a child’s father needs to prove that he is the father.
When is a Child Legitimate under Georgia Law?
A legitimate child is a child born to a married couple. Married couples have equal legal rights to their children.
In today’s world, more and more children are being born to unmarried couples. When a child is born outside of marriage, the child is considered illegitimate. The term illegitimate has some negative stigma. Under Georgia law, it just means that the baby’s father will need to take some extra steps to gain legal rights to the child.
When a child is illegitimate, only the mother has legal rights. Until the father establishes legal rights, the mother gets to make all decisions for the child. This includes whether the child spends time with the father.
What is Legitimation?
Parents can establish the father’s legal rights to his child by simply getting married. Then their rights to the child will be the same as married couples’ rights. Not all couples want to get married though. Bringing a court action called a legitimation is another way to establish the father’s rights.
A legitimation case will set up each parent’s rights in relation to the other’s rights. A legitimation case has two parts. First, it addresses whether a father gets to be the legal father of the child. A father is granted legitimation if he can show that it would be in the best interests of the child. In most cases, the father is legitimated. If the father is legitimated, then the case can address other legal rights.
A legitimation case will determine:
- Parenting time
- The right to make decisions for the child
- The right to access the child’s records
- The child’s last name
- Child support
A mother can also file a court case to establish the father’s legal rights and responsibilities. The case is like a legitimation but is called a paternity action.
What if the Father pays child support?
There is a difference between legal rights and legal responsibilities. Custody and parenting time are a right. Child support is a responsibility. Paying child support alone does not give the father legal rights to the child.
A court can impose a financial responsibility on the father based on him being the biological father. This can be done in a child support action. This type of action only determines child support and cannot give the father legal rights. So a father can be paying child support but still not have a right to parenting time. In contrast, a legitimation action can establish both legal rights and child support.
Getting Help with Legitimation and Paternity
Porchlight helps both fathers and mothers navigate the legitimation and paternity process. Parents can establish these legal rights as soon as the child is born.
If you want to learn more about this process, contact Porchlight today. In our Legal Clarity Session, we explain your rights and responsibilities. We can help you decide whether and when to move forward with legal action.