Georgia courts have long made it clear that paternity and legitimation are two distinct legal concepts in Georgia. In fact, the Georgia Court of Appeals makes this point explicitly in its decision in Ghrist v. Fricks et al., 219 Ga. App. 415 (1995). In that decision the court stated that “paternity and legitimation are not the same thing. Biology is not destiny, and a man has no absolute right to the grant of his petition to legitimate a child simply because he is the biological father. Instead we have held time and time again that the court must consider the best interest and welfare of the child before granting a legitimation petition, and that it is not bound by the desires and contentions of the biological parents.” Id. Paternity actions are essentially the action brought by the Mother to seek a child support obligation and to establish who is the biological father of a child. The Father’s action is called a legitimation action, and it is not based on biology alone. In fact, a man may be deemed the biological father of a child, by virtue of a paternity judgment, without being granted any legal child custody or visitation rights. This is so because in Georgia, a father must legitimize his child in order 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.
Among the great social changes of the past half-century is the greater participation of fathers in the day-to-day care of their children. No longer can it be assumed that mothers carry the responsibility alone, and many, many fathers fully participate in the joys and burdens of child-rearing. As a result of this changing role, a greater interest in fathers’ rights has emerged.
Paternity actions in Georgia can be filed by men or women. Once one party files, any component of the relationship — such as visitation — can instantly become an issue.
I can counsel you if you’re a mother who wants to use a paternity suit to identify the father of your child for purposes of establishing child support obligations. I also represent fathers whose paternity suits are aimed at gaining child custody and visitation rights, as well as those who want to establish that they are not a father in a given case.
I can call on DNA testing resources to establish or disprove paternity, and I negotiate and draft relevant documents for my clients. Every aspect of my firm’s paternity practice is carried out with utmost discretion and privacy.
Call my office at 678-316-5000 for assistance with paternity or legitimation.