Protecting Fathers’ Rights In Georgia
Married couples who have children in Georgia have no issue establishing their legal parentage, since the law establishes a presumption that a married woman’s husband is her children’s father. If you are unmarried, however, you may have to go through a process to ensure that your child’s father has legal rights and visitation, and consulting an experienced Atlanta family lawyer can help ease that process along.
Georgia law requires an unmarried father to go through a two-step process to establish his legal parental rights. The first step is to establish legal paternity, which can be done in one of two ways under state law. The first is by executing what is called a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. This form effectively acknowledges legal paternity, though it can be rescinded or disavowed within the 60-day period after signing. State law holds that a man’s signature on a VAP constitutes an affirmative statement of paternity, and unless the agreement is rescinded (made invalid), that means that the potential is there for a support order to be issued against him, should it be necessary.
The second way of establishing legal paternity is by either the mother or the alleged father bringing a paternity suit and seeking a court order of parentage. Usually, this means that genetic testing will be performed on all involved, after which the court will enter an order establishing legal parentage.
In Georgia, the next step of the process is referred to as legitimation. Legitimation is important in order for the father be legally recognized as the child’s father. Acknowledging paternity establishes the right of the mother to collect support from the father, but it does not give the father any parental rights.
Legitimation is the other half of the process, and it gives a legal father the right to seek visitation and physical or legal custody of the child. The way this must be done in Georgia is either to complete the relevant section on a VAP form, or to bring a Petition for Legitimation to the family court in the relevant county.
It is important to understand that even if legitimation is granted, this does not automatically give the father the right to legal or physical custody, or to visitation, although the court may grant those rights as part of that action. However, legitimation is the critical first step, and it can also be useful for the child, as it gives the child and the father the right to inherit from one another. It also allows the child to receive medical information from the father, such as the prevalence of diseases like heart disease in his family tree.
Additionally, after the legitimation is finalized by the court, the court will also establish the father’s duty for child support according to the child support guidelines in Georgia. The court may also may also determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to take the father’s last name as part of the legitimation order.
Call An Atlanta Paternity Lawyer
If you are in a position to seek paternity or legitimation, an Atlanta family attorney at Buckhead Family Law will work hard to give your case the best chance at success. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.