Paternity is generally defined as the legal acknowledgement that a man is a child's father. Paternity determinations are necessary before such legal rights as custody and visitation can be exercised. Georgia recognizes that there are both traditional and non-traditional ways in which a child can be born to a couple, so the state government allows for paternity establishments to be made in a number of different ways.
The first of these ways is when the parents are legally married at the time of the child's birth. When the parents are married, the law presumes that the husband is the biological father of the child. Married parents do not have to take any additional steps in order for legally binding paternity to be established.
Paternity Acknowledgement Form
A second way is specifically for unwed parents and involves the signing of a Paternity Acknowledgement Form. This can happen in several different forums, including:
- At the hospital or birthing center following the child's birth
- The State Office of Vital Records (located in Atlanta)
- The Office of Vital Records located in the county where the child was born
Once a Paternity Acknowledgement Form has been voluntarily signed by both parents, the law grants the family certain rights. But it does not give the father alone the right to bring an action for custody. That can only be done through the process of legitimation. The rights provided by the Paternity Acknowledgement Form include:
- Child's right to have relationships with both parents
- Child's right to be financially supported by both the mother and the father
- Child's legally recognized parentage noted on his or her birth certificate when both parents are noted
- Child's chance to receive necessary Social Security, pension or support payments from the father
- Father's legal right to notice of any proceedings to terminate parental rights or give the child up for adoption
- Both parents' responsibility for providing the child with financial support (including medical insurance coverage) at least until the age of 18
The third method of establishing paternity involves a court order issued by a recognized Georgia local, state or federal court. Any number of different court orders will suffice, including divorce decrees, agreements for legal separation or other judicial/administrative order.
Regardless of what method of establishing paternity you choose, be sure to get the help you need with the process or with related actions like legitimation, custody suits, or seeking financial support payments. Consult an experienced family law attorney in your area for more information.