Legitimation is a process that establishes a father’s legal parental rights in Georgia. It can affect child custody, visitation, and inheritance.
If you’re trying to legitimate a child or want to contest a legitimation petition in Douglasville, GA, Bardley McKnight Law can help.
Our team of experienced attorneys has over 40 years of combined experience assisting people with complex family law issues. We understand the emotional aspect of these cases, and we know what’s at stake. That’s why we provide compassionate guidance and support to all clients throughout the legal process.
How Can Bardley McKnight Law Help With My Legitimation Case in Douglasville, Georgia?
Legal proceedings involving legitimation can be an emotional process. You may be trying to establish your right to see your child, or you may be a mother trying to protect your child. Or, both parties may agree to legitimate the child.
In any case, a Douglasville family law attorney will be your greatest asset as you navigate the Douglas County court system.
If you hire Bardley McKnight Law for help with your legitimation case in Douglasville, Georgia, we’ll help by:
- Listening to your expectations regarding the outcome of your case
- Explaining your legal options and the consequences of all decisions
- Protecting your rights and ensuring that your child’s best interests are always the primary consideration
- Helping you and the other party reach a favorable agreement that addresses child custody, visitation, child support, and other issues, if possible
- Helping you build a case proving that legitimation isn’t in the best interest of the child, if applicable
- Representing you and your child’s best interests in all court hearings
No matter what stage of the process you’re at, our legitimation attorneys in Douglasville can help. Contact us today for a case evaluation to learn more about our legal services and the benefits of an attorney-client relationship.
What Is Legitimation in Georgia?
Under Georgia law, a child is considered “legitimate” when they are born in wedlock – or when the parents are married. If the child was conceived during marriage and the parents subsequently divorced before birth, the child is considered legitimate under GA law.
A child born out of wedlock means the following:
- Their parents weren’t married when the child was conceived.
- Their parents weren’t married when the child was born.
- Their parents haven’t married since birth.
- The child was conceived in an adulterous relationship.
Legitimation is how the father of a child born out of wedlock establishes his parental rights. By legitimating a child, the father is recognized as the legal father. This gives the father rights to child custody, visitation, and parenting time. It also provides inheritance rights to the father and child in the event of either’s death.
Additionally, establishing legitimation gives you the right to object to an adoption, such as if the mother marries another man who wants to adopt the child.
The mother will have sole custody if a father doesn’t legitimate a child born out of wedlock. That means the father has no legal right to see the child or make any decisions regarding their upbringing or welfare.
How Does Legitimation Differ from Paternity?
Paternity establishes that a person is the biological father of a child. Legitimation establishes that a person is the legal father of a child.
Georgia is one of the few states that require this extra layer of recognizing the relationship between a father and child. You must establish legitimation to be entitled to custodial rights of a child.
When paternity is proven, the father has a financial obligation to support the child, meaning the mother may be entitled to child support. Additionally, the child may receive Social Security benefits. However, paternity alone doesn’t give the father a legal right to custody or visitation. That’s where legitimation comes in.
How Do I Establish Legitimation Under Georgia Law?
You can legitimate a child born out of wedlock in Georgia in the following ways:
- Marry the mother of the child and recognize the child as yours.
- Sign a voluntary paternity acknowledgment form. Both the mother and father must sign and have the document notarized. However, this form cannot establish legitimation if the mother was married to someone else within ten months prior to the child’s birth or if another person is listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate. This form must be submitted to the State Office of Vital Records. If you petition the court to establish paternity, you can file a third-party legitimation action. The court can enter an order legitimating the child based on the paternity acknowledgment form if it’s in the best interest of the child.
- File a Petition for Legitimation with the Superior Court in the county of the mother’s residence (e.g., Douglas County). Only the purported father can file this document – the mother cannot.
If you petition the court, you must name the mother as a party, and she must be served with the documents. She’ll have a chance to be heard by the judge. Also, if the child has a legal father who isn’t the biological father, he must be named and served. A decision will be rendered based on the child’s best interests.
If the court declares the child legitimate, it will issue an order outlining support, custody, and other issues related to the child. It may also change the child’s name, but not in all cases.
What Doesn’t Count as Legitimation?
Many people are surprised to learn that they aren’t considered the legal father under Georgia law.
For example, you may have:
- Signed the child’s birth certificate
- Been determined the biological father by a paternity test (via genetic testing)
- Been ordered to pay child support
- Been involved in the child’s life, such as attending school events
- Lived with the child’s biological mother
However, these alone do not establish legal paternal rights. The legitimation process is the only way to do this in Georgia.
Can the Mother Contest a Father’s Legitimation Petition in Georgia?
Yes. The mother must be served with the legitimation petition, and she has a chance to file a response and be heard in court. The superior court judge will listen to both parties and make a determination based on their testimony and any offered evidence.
As with any child-related matter, the paramount consideration is what is in the best interest of the child.
The following factors can affect whether a Georgia court grants legitimization:
- A history of domestic violence or abuse
- Any drug or alcohol abuse by either parent
- The father’s relationship with the child
- Whether the child has an established father figure in their life (such as a stepdad)
- The father’s motivation for bringing the legitimation action
The judge may consider these and any other factors relevant to the legitimation case. While courts tend to agree that a child should have contact with both biological parents, that’s not always in their best interests.
For example, if the father is unfit or is petitioning the court to harass the mother or for other questionable reasons, they will likely lose their case.
Our Douglasville family lawyers can help you prove your case, whether you’re a father trying to assert his rights or a mother trying to protect her child. Contact us today to learn more about your legal rights under Georgia’s domestic relations laws.
How Long Will the Legitimation Process Take in Douglasville, Georgia?
If you petition the court to legitimate a child, the time it takes for the process to conclude will depend on various factors, including:
- Whether you’re listed on the child’s birth certificate
- Whether the mother contests legitimation
- The court’s schedule
- Whether custody of the child is at issue, such as the visitation schedule
A legitimation lawyer in Douglasville, GA can help you navigate this challenging process and reach a resolution efficiently.
Contact Our Douglasville Legitimation Attorneys for a Confidential Consultation To Discuss Your Legal Options
If you’re thinking of petitioning the court for legitimation or want to contest this process, Bardley McKnight Law is here to provide assistance. Our Douglasville family attorneys will provide sound legal advice and guidance. We want to hear your story and ensure that you and your child’s interests are protected.
Contact our law office today to schedule an appointment to speak with an experienced legitimation lawyer in Douglasville, GA. We’ll do everything we can to make the process as stress-free as possible.