What Is Georgia’s Putative Father Registry?
When a child is born in wedlock, both the mother and the father are listed on the birth certificate as a matter of course. If a child’s parents are not married, and the father is not present to witness the birth and sign the relevant papers, they may later add themselves to the Putative Father Registry in order to begin the process of establishing paternity. If you are in this position, contacting an attorney may be a good idea, so you can ensure that your rights are protected.
Biological Parents, Not Legal
The Georgia Putative Father Registry is a database of people who have either (1) executed a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, or (2) affirmatively signed up with the Registry. Either action establishes a person as the potential biological father of a child, and grants them certain rights under Georgia law. Being the biological father of a child does not grant rights like visitation or custody when the parents are not married at the time of the child’s birth and do not subsequently marry one another. In order to receive those legal rights, one must file what is known as a legitimation action and obtain a custody order.
Legitimation is the second step in the three-step process of establishing a legal relationship between a father and their child or children when the parents are not married to one another. The first step is establishing biological paternity; the second is legitimation, and the third is obtaining a custody and/or visitation order. Legitimation is done by filing the appropriate petition in court, and if it is deemed to be in the child’s best interests, the court will establish the biological father as the legal father. One cannot file a petition of legitimation if one is not on the PFR in Georgia.
There are several reasons why a father might affirmatively join the registry, even if they were not present for the birth of the child. They may simply do so out of obligation, knowing that they are the father of a child. They may also register if the mother of their child is not permitting contact, since doing so does give them rights to seek contact or paternity. Being on the register gives the alleged biological father the chance to be notified of any proceedings surrounding that child, such as the mother filing a paternity action with another man. In order to guarantee legal notice of any legal proceedings involving the child, the putative father should register as soon as he becomes aware that he may be the father of a child, ideally even before the child’s birth. See O.C.G.A. § 15-11-83(i)(3).
One of the most important reasons that a person might wish to add themselves to the Putative Father Registry is so that they may have some rights over the adoption of that child, even if they are not seeking parenting time. Even fathers who have not legitimated their children have the right in Georgia to weigh in on a potential adoption. In rare instances, such as situations of abuse or neglect, a father may have his parental rights terminated by a court, but in most situations the father must sign off and consent to any adoption before the adoption can proceed.
What is the process for registering with Georgia’s Putative Father Registry?
In some situations, a putative or alleged father’s name and information may automatically appear on the Putative Father Registry. A father may be automatically registered if his name appears on the child’s birth certificate. If a father’s name does not automatically appear on the registry, he must register with the state agency that maintains the Registry. In Georgia, this is handled by Vital Records within the Georgia Department of Human Resources.
The safer course is to not presume that a father has automatically been registered and to check with Vital Records. Fathers who have not been automatically registered may find a putative rather registry registration form online from the Department of Human Resources, Division of Vital Records. Once a father has registered with on the Putative Father Registry, he should keep his contact information up to date.
Can An Atlanta Paternity and Legitimation Lawyer Help You?
Paternity and legitimation is a difficult and complex topic in Georgia, and in order to ensure that you have the best chance of having your parental rights recognized, contacting an experienced Atlanta paternity lawyer is always a good idea. The attorneys at Buckhead Family Law understand how high the stakes are in paternity actions, and will work hard to try and give you the best outcome possible. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.