Hey, Dads! Do You Have the Parental Rights You Think You Do? Is Legitimation What You Need?

dad reading a card with a heart, and his daughter hugging him

The month of June is often filled to the brim with excitement. Amid preparing for several graduations, the first day of summer, and keeping the kids busy while they are home from school, make sure you’re able to set aside time to celebrate one of the best holidays this month: Father’s Day!

There are all kinds of fathers in the world, but one characteristic that connects many of them is their love for their children. Unfortunately, if their child was born out of wedlock, there are some legal hoops dads have to jump through in order to ensure their paternal rights are recognized and verified.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 44.9% of all children born in 2017 were born out of wedlock. If you’re a father and you weren’t married to your current or former partner when your child was born, you have no right to custody or visitation rights in the state of Georgia until you get your child legitimized. In addition to your lack of parental rights, without legitimation, your kids will lose out on several rights of their own, such as these: family medical information, inheritance, Social Security benefits for you, and the ability to be placed in the care of your relative in an emergency situation.

Contrary to popular belief, signing your child’s birth certificate, paying child support, and even obtaining a paternity test does not give you any legal rights to make decisions regarding your child’s care. In fact, many fathers have the unfortunate experience of finding out that, even after taking all the proper steps, they are denied the opportunity to see their kids. Here’s the bottom line: Unless a child born outside of marriage is legitimized, the mother has all the authority.

While legitimation is extremely important in these kinds of family dynamics, the process itself isn’t too complex. You’ll have to file a petition with the superior court in the county where the child’s mother lives. Our attorneys recommend having a DNA test done prior to the filing, just to prevent any issues that could arise throughout the process. The petition will state basic information about the child and parents. It will also determine whether or not the father wishes to have the child’s last name changed. After filing, the mother will be served a copy of the petition and will have a designated time to either consent or object. At that point, a hearing is scheduled so a judge can issue an order. In the vast majority of cases, legitimation petitions are granted unless the mother can provide evidence to show that the father is unfit or has waited too long to start the legitimation process.

Regardless of the specifics, in the end, your child will be given the opportunity to have an involved father in their life, which is an important aspect of every child’s experience. What’s more, having a close relationship with their dad means that your child will be able to fully celebrate every June when Father’s Day comes around! Let us make this process easier for you — give us a call.

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