Establishing Legal Rights And Responsibilities For Unwed Fathers
Unlike many other states, Georgia does not recognize the parental rights or legal responsibilities of a father if he is not married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. Establishing those rights and responsibilities requires two legal processes, which are best completed with the help of an experienced attorney.
Paternity Actions And Legitimations – What Is The Difference?
Courts have long made it clear that paternity and legitimation are two distinct legal concepts in Georgia. Paternity actions are often brought by the mother to seek a child support obligation and establish who is the biological father of a child.
Conversely, the father’s action is called a legitimation action. While it is necessary to first establish a biological relationship, legitimation is not based on biology alone. In Georgia, a father must use the legitimation process to establish a legal relationship with his child. Only once this legal relationship is established will a father be granted visitation and child custody rights.
In essence, paternity equals child support, and legitimation equals child custody and parenting time.
Establishing Paternity Does Not Guarantee Legitimation
Although there are considerable benefits to seeking legitimation and, in fact, the law often favors this process over paternity, it’s important to know that there are times in which a judge or the court may determine that legitimation is not in the best interests of the child. One example of when that may occur is in cases where a father has physically or sexually abused the child in question. In such a case, legitimation would be denied.
If the court grants legitimation, then a father’s visitation and custodial rights are taken into consideration for both child custody and child support orders.
Valuable Counsel For Your Paternity Or Legitimation Action
Paternity actions in Georgia can be filed by either parent. Unfortunately, not all paternity actions are amicable. In some cases, a mother will seek paternity in order to correctly identify the father so that she may establish a child support obligation. In other cases, a father may seek paternity in order to gain custody of his child or children or secure a visitation order.
Whatever the reason, paternity actions can sometimes be contentious and may require assistance from a skilled family law attorney.
At Candace M. Williams, P.C., I utilize DNA testing to establish or disprove paternity. Then I negotiate and/or draft crucial legal documents to assist my clients in their paternity actions. At every step, I make sure everything is carried out with the highest level of discretion and privacy.
Once paternity is established, I can help you seek legitimation (as a father) as a means of gaining more involvement in your child’s life. Alternatively, if you are the mother of the child, I can represent you in a motion to deny legitimation if you believe that a father-child relationship would not be in your child’s best interests.
Contact The Firm To Discuss Your Options
From my office in Gainesville, Candace M. Williams, P.C., I serve clients throughout northeast Georgia. To arrange your initial consultation, please fill out my online contact form or call 470-705-5442.