Legitimation is a legal action which is the only way, other than by marrying the mother of a child, that the father of a child born out of wedlock in the State of Georgia may establish legal rights to his child. Without legitimation, these fathers have no right to custody or visitation with the children (although the laws say they have the obligation to support them financially). Without legitimation, mothers have sole custody of children born out of wedlock. Also, children born out of wedlock do not automatically have the right to inherit from their fathers.
Here are some examples of things that are NOT a legitimation:
- enrolling the child in school,
- being named the father in a paternity test,
- agreeing to or being ordered to pay child support,
- naming the child in the father's last will and testament,
- signing the child's birth certificate.
You have the right to file a petition for legitimation. If your petition for legitimation is granted, you have the right to ask the court for custody and visitation and your child has the right to your inheritance.
The father can file a Petition for Legitimation in Superior Court in the county where the biological mother lives. The mother must be formally notified, and she has the right to attend the court hearing. There is a basic filing fee and fee of service to serve others with documentation. Fathers who file such a Petition do not have the absolute right to have the judge sign an order legitimating the child. The court will only legitimate the child if the court believes that the legitimation is in the child's best interests.
For more information on legitimation, please visit Georgia Legal Aid: What Should I Know About Legitimation?