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Establishing Paternity

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2019 | Firm News

There is frequently some confusion regarding the difference between paternity and legitimation in the state of Georgia. However, the two have distinct definitions according to Georgia courts.

Differences According to the Georgia Court of Appeals

In Ghrist v. Fricks et al., 219 Ga. App. 415 (1995), the Georgia Court of Appeals details that paternity and legitimation are two separate concepts. Specifically, the decision makes it clear that the father’s biological connection to a child doesn’t guarantee the right to petition for the legitimation of a child. Instead, the court determines what is in the best interest of the child prior to granting a petition for legitimation.

In other words, biology is the basis for paternity, but not legitimation. Paternity is established once a man is found to be the biological father, and what follows is the establishment of that man’s financial responsibility to the child. However, legitimation decisions will determine the father’s ability to gain custody of the child or obtain visitation rights. In many cases, a biological father may not be allowed parenting time or equal custody.

Only once the biological father legitimizes his child can he become legally connected with the child.

Steps for Establishing Paternity

One of the first steps a father needs to take to establish paternity is to consent to appear on the child’s birth certificate, which provides the first piece of evidence. Parents have the option to complete and sign a form for voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, which will add the father’s name to the certificate. Another means of establishing paternity is for the alleged father, mother, relative caring for the child, or the child petitioning the court to determine paternity, which is typically done through a DNA test.

In some cases, the Department of Human Resources may, through the Office of State Administrative Hearings, pursue a final decision on paternity. Once a man is found to be the biological father of a child, he is required to provide financial support, usually through child support payments.

Determining Legitimation

Marrying the child’s mother is a common legitimation action, but other actions are needed to establish legal rights such as inheritance and custody to children born out of wedlock. Even if the biological father appears on the child’s birth certificate, he will need to take other steps to establish legitimation.

Paternity acknowledgment forms also feature sections that refer to legitimation toward the bottom. If both the mother and father consent to the form and sign the legitimation section, this qualifies as an administrative acknowledgment of legitimation that gives the father legal rights to the child. This acknowledgment is required to take place prior to the child’s first birthday and is invalid if the mother is married or was married during her pregnancy to someone other than the biological father.

Biological fathers can also file Petitions for Legitimation via juvenile court following the child’s birth, although the mother has the right to contest the petition.

Work with Reliable Attorneys

For assistance with establishing paternity or legitimation, the experienced attorneys at Daniele Johnson & Associates are here to help today.


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