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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How Unmarried Fathers Can Establish Legal Rights

Modern, non-traditional families come in many shapes and sizes, however the legal definitions associated with certain parental rights are very specific and can have a major impact on how your family functions in the long-term.

For example, including a father's name on the birth certificate is not enough to make him the legal father if the parents are not married at the time of birth and do not subsequently marry. Hospitals now offer a "Paternity Acknowledgement Form" that establishes biological paternity.

However, it's important to know that the new form only allows the father's name to be on the birth certificate and does not provide any legal rights as the father unless the legitimation section of the form is completed and notarized in its entirety. However, even with the legitimation section complete, the father still lacks any custodial or visitation rights to the child.

Biological fathers who are not legally recognized as the legitimate father may experience short-term and long-term disadvantages that can affect their children both emotionally and financially.

How can unmarried fathers safeguard certain legal rights?

"Legitimation" is the process by which a father can legally establish his relationship with his child. An unmarried biological father who is not legally established as the father through legitimation has no parental rights, and a child that is not legitimated does not have a legal relationship with the father. Without legitimation, fathers will lack any rights to custody or visitation of their child, and the child will be unable to legally inherit from the father, including benefits such as social security.

How can parents establish Legitimation?

There are two ways to establish Legitimation, and the process varies depending on the child's age.

Parents have until the child's first birthday to voluntarily establish of legitimation. The easiest way to legitimate a child is at birth when both parents are present to complete the Legitimization section of the "Paternity Acknowledgement Form," including notarized signatures and photo IDs. Signing only the top section of the form does not result in legitimation rights. The completed form must then be filed with the Georgia State Office of Vital Records. This form, however, establishes only the legal relationship, and does not give the father any rights to custody or visitation.

The best and most beneficial way for the father to establish a legal relationship with his child is for the father to file a judicial petition to legitimate his child. The claim must be filed in the county where the child is currently residing with the mother or legal guardian and the mother has the opportunity to contest the petition on the grounds that the petitioner is not the biological father. If paternity becomes an issue, the Court will likely order a DNA test to be completed.

A Petition for Legitimation should also include additional requests such as establishing custody and visitation, which will ensure the father not only has a legal relationship with his child, but that he will have access to his child, as well. Fathers who are considering petitioning for legitimation rights should consult with a local attorney who specializes in family law to ensure that their documentation is accurate and submitted correctly.

Are there disadvantages to Legitimation?

Fathers have more to gain than lose when it comes to legitimation. A biological father who has not legitimized a child may still be obligated to provide financial support for his children. Therefore, avoiding legitimation does not mean a father can avoid paying child support by court order.

For more information on Legitimation and other Family Law issues, contact Elizabeth Pool here or call (770) 775-3188 to schedule an appointment.

Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.

 

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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