Do You Have to Go to Court to Establish Paternity in Georgia?
Becoming a father means opening up to a broad range of new experiences and taking on quite a bit of personal responsibility. New fathers often worry about how they will protect their children and their relationship with their child, especially if they did not marry the child’s mother.
The good news for unmarried fathers is that it is relatively simple to establish paternity if one follows the right procedures required by the state. Unfortunately, many fathers don’t understand the process and may let rumors that they have heard intimidate them. For example, many people have heard or even shared the urban legend that only those who litigate can establish paternity. However, contrary to what some people claim, it is not always necessary for unmarried fathers to go to court to prove they are the father of a child.
Men Can Establish Paternity with the Help of the Mother
Georgia allows for a relatively quick and cooperative paternity process if the mother of the child acknowledges the father. The two can fill out paternity acknowledgment paperwork together that will add the father’s name to the birth certificate. It is possible to take this step right when a child enters the world at the hospital.
Fathers also have the option of approaching the mother to amend the existing birth certificate anytime while the child is still a minor. Even if the relationship between the two parents is not particularly positive, the mother may cooperate because establishing paternity will benefit the child involved.
When There Are Questions or Cooperation Issues, the Courts Can Help
Sometimes, there is some lingering uncertainty about who might actually be the biological father of the child. Other times, the mother of the child may refuse to cooperate and will not acknowledge the father despite his desire to play an active role in the life of the child. Although some people are averse to family court proceedings, the courts can provide invaluable support to fathers who want a strong relationship with their children.
Establishing paternity is usually the first step toward asserting parental rights with the help of an experienced legal professional and cementing the foundation of a relationship with a biological child in Georgia.
How is Paternity Legally Established in Georgia?
Paternity is usually a simple matter. However, everyone’s experiences are different and sometimes life gets messy. And in cases where parents truly suspect that their co-parent is not the genetic, paternal father, they may have reason for limiting that individual’s access to the child.
Georgia’s state laws state that a legal acknowledgment or determination of paternity may be required in order to legally recognize the paternal parents of a child. However, please note that while a paternity test may prove the legitimacy of a father to a child, it does not necessarily alter that adult’s relationship or custody with the child in question.
Establishing legal paternity according to Georgia’s laws could be accomplished in any of the following ways:
- At the time of the child’s birth, the parents are legally married to each other.
- If unmarried, the unwed parents can sign a legal document known as the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form. This document can be filled out and signed at the State Office of Vital Records in the county where the baby was born. Alternatively, the parents may sign the paternity acknowledgment form at the hospital where the child is born.
- A court order may be petitioned for and obtained to legally establish paternity. This court order could be a separation agreement, signed divorce papers, or some other family law court order.
Can a Court Order Someone to Take a Paternity Test?
Yes, the court may order that the father, mother, and child submit DNA samples in order to establish genetic paternity. This order can be passed down from federal courts, state courts, or local county courtrooms. A petition to establish paternity can be submitted to the state court by the concerned family member.
A petition for a paternity test may also be submitted by Georgia’s Division of Child Support Services. This is typically done if the mother is the recipient of public assistance services.
What is Legitimation?
Legitimation is a legal process that can give an unwed father specific rights regarding the care, custody, and upbringing of a child. Only the biological father may submit a legitimation action. If successful, this act can claim the rights to parenting time and visitation rights.
Biological mothers can challenge legitimation filings on a few grounds. They may raise doubts about whether the father is indeed the biological parent of the child in question. Or, the mother may suggest that the father, even if proven to be the biological parent of the child, has forfeited his rights as a father through his actions. The courts, meanwhile, will have to measure these allegations and investigate further.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by this. Family law can be a complicated subject. There are numerous experienced lawyers available, such as ourselves, who would be happy to lend assistance.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you have any questions or concerns about paternity tests and obtaining legal proof of biological parentage, please contact our law firm. Our legal team has years of experience representing clients through the complexities of family law. We take pride in providing compassionate, client-first approaches to our cases. We understand that, for you, this is no mere case, but this is your life. This is your family. And we will always act with care and respect with that in mind.
If you’d like to learn more about legitimation, paternity tests, paternity acknowledgements, and other topics, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team. Family Lawyers of Atlanta offers free initial case evaluations to all prospective clients with cases involving family law. If you are not satisfied with our vision for your case, you should not feel obligated to retain our legal services. But please consider taking advantage of the free consultation, as we may be able to help provide useful legal guidance to you and your family.
To speak with a legal team member, please email us, use the website contact form, or call our Atlanta office at 404-418-7777.