Understanding the legal nuances of legitimation can be complex, especially when it involves the wellbeing of a child.
One common question we often encounter is, “Does signing a birth certificate legitimize a child in Georgia?” The short answer is: No.
Let’s take a deeper look into this topic and provide some much-needed clarity.
Birth Certificates and Legitimation in Georgia
In Georgia, signing a birth certificate does not automatically legitimize a child. Legitimation is a separate legal process that establishes a legal relationship between a father and his child born out of wedlock.
The act of signing the birth certificate is significant as it acknowledges paternity (and if your child has your last name, it is another acknowledgement that you’re the child’s biological father), but it does not confer the rights and responsibilities of legitimation.
Do You Have to Legitimize a Child in Georgia?
Legitimation is essential in the state of Georgia if a father wants to have legal rights to his child.
Without legitimation, a father may not have the right to custody or visitation, and may not be able to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. He will however, be responsible for paying child support to the mother, if the mother files a paternity action.
But no custody rights are granted unless and until he files for legitimation and it is granted by the court.
Requirements for Child Legitimation in Georgia
The requirements for child legitimation in Georgia are specific. The father needs to be the biological father, the child must be born out of wedlock, and the child must be under 18 years of age. Additionally, no other man should have legitimate rights to the child.
An example of this that is somewhat common is where the mother was married to another man, had sexual intercourse with the biological father (not her husband), had a child through this affair, and remained married to the non-biological father after the child was born, who would then be the legal father of said child, until the biological father was able to contest it in court.
Where to Go to Legitimize a Child
To legitimize a child in Georgia, you need to file a Petition for Legitimation with the Superior Court in the county where the mother resides.
In order to file everything correctly, make sure you seek a local attorney who practices in the county you need to file in.
How Much Does It Cost To Legitimize A Child
Filing fees for legitimation vary by county, but they generally range from $200 to $300. Additional costs may include serving papers to the mother of the child. And legal fees start at $3,000 and can go up into the $20,000 to $30,000 range or more, if it is contested.
Do You Need a Lawyer for Legitimation
While it’s possible to complete the process without a lawyer, having a knowledgeable attorney can help ensure you’ve correctly navigated the legal procedures and paperwork.
You risk the chance of being denied your legitimation case without proper guidance – and if you are denied, you may lose the right to get custody of your child forever.
How Long Does a Father Have to Legitimize a Child in Georgia?
There is no set time limit for a father to legitimize a child in Georgia. However, it is advisable to do so as soon as possible to establish legal rights and responsibilities.
The longer you wait, the more it looks like you’ve abandoned your opportunity to legitimate and if you’re found to have abandoned that “opportunity interest” as it is called, then your legitimation will be denied and you will be barred from having custody of your children.
How Long Does It Take to Legitimize a Child in Georgia?
The length of the legitimation process varies, depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months – and up to several years, depending on the specifics of the case and if the mother fights to block the legitimation.
Legitimize a Child in Georgia Forms
Legitimation forms in Georgia can be obtained from the clerk of the Superior Court in the county where the mother lives. Even though you can fill the forms out yourself, it’s advised to contact an attorney to assist you, to make sure you’ve gotten everything correct.
How to Fill Out Legitimation Forms in Georgia
Completing legitimation forms requires careful attention to detail. You’ll need to provide information about yourself, the mother, and the child. An attorney can ensure these forms are filled out correctly and thoroughly.
Can a Mother Deny Legitimation in Georgia?
In Georgia, a mother cannot flat out deny legitimation if the biological father files a petition. However, she can contest it, leading to a court hearing.
She can try to block it by showing that the father waited too long and abandoned his opportunity to legitimate the child. She can also attempt to show that it would harm the child if the father were granted the legitimation.
If you have a mother fighting the legitimation, also called a contested legitimation, make sure to contact a local attorney to represent you and protect your rights.
Child Support Without Legitimation
Without legitimation, a father can still be required to pay child support. However, he will not have any legal rights to custody or visitation until the child is legitimized. So make sure you do not delay if you want to legitimate your child.
Navigating the complexities of legitimation can be challenging. However, understanding these key details is the first step toward protecting your rights and establishing a legal relationship with your child.
To learn more regarding your specific case, contact a local attorney who practices father’s rights in the county where the child and his or her mother reside.