The process of establishing paternity rights in Georgia can be extremely difficult to navigate. Maternal rights are inherent at birth, but establishing a father’s rights can be far more complicated, especially in cases involving unmarried couples or divorce.
When a father signs a birth certificate, he is not establishing parental rights, although many people assume that’s the case. Signing a birth certificate simply establishes paternity, and can be used to determine child support if you are unmarried or get divorced.
In order to receive visitation rights and the right to make decisions about care, you must first legally “legitimate” yourself as the child’s father.
Under the Official Code of Georgia there are four ways in which you can legitimate your child:
• You were legally married to the mother at the time she gave birth
• You legally marry the mother after the birth and recognize the child as your own (assuming paternity has not been disproved through the court system)
• You legally adopt the child
• You file a legitimation action in court
If you have not married the mother of your child before or after birth, or legally adopted the child, you will need a court to establish your rights to custody or visitation, regardless of whether you are on the birth certificate. Establishing your parental rights also creates the right of inheritance, and can affect the legal name of your child.
The first step in the process is a court hearing and potential DNA test to establish paternity. Once that is established, the court looks at other factors, most importantly the best interests of the child.
If you need to present your case to establish your parental rights, we can help. Family Law Attorneys Patrick McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark at Andersen, Tate & Carr have combined experience of more than 30 years representing clients during cases involving child custody and visitation in Georgia.
For more information, or to request a case evaluation, call our law office at (770) 822-0900.
We have been very successful at reaching the best possible outcome for our clients, and our attorneys are here to help you through this difficult and stressful time.
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