Information About Fathers
Georgia law establishes two distinct levels of recognition of the relationship between a father and a child born out of wedlock: paternity and legitimation. Paternity establishes who the biological father of the child is, and obligates the payment of child support; legitimation establishes the legal relationship (parental rights) with and to the child, and gives the father standing to request custody or visitation. The continuum of paternal rights is basically: paternity → legitimation → custodial/visitation rights.
Different Definitions of "Fathers"
Biological Father: The man with whom a woman conceives a child. Naming a man as the biological father on a birth certificate or ordering him to pay child support does not make him a legal father.
Putative Father: Man who is alleged to be the biological father of a child; putative fathers have no legal rights to the child, but can establish those rights by legitimating the child.
Legal Father: A man who has a legal right to be included in the upbringing and care of a child; a legal father is one of the following:
- A man who is married to the mother at the time a child was conceived or born;
- A man who is not married to the mother, but acknowledges paternity and legitimates the child through a court action.
- A biological father who acknowledges paternity and marries the mother.
Father's Legal Rights
- The right to be included in the upbringing and care of a child;
- Legal Father has custody rights over third parties;
- The right to seek visitation or custody of the child.
If you are the biological or putative father of a child, but not the child’s legal father and you wish to seek custody or visitation rights, you have no legal claim to the child until that child has been legitimated by you. Even if you have not legitimated a child, you may be ordered to pay child support. Becoming a legal father will not release you from your child support obligations.
Merely having a blood test (paternity test) showing you are the father does not mean you are the legal father. You must legitimate your child in order to gain legal rights to your child. Legal father has rights over third parties.
How To Legitimate A Child In Juvenile Court
You can file a petition to legitimate the child in Juvenile Court if there is a deprivation proceeding in progress for that child. You must file the petition at the Juvenile Court in the county where the deprivation proceeding is pending.