The children of unmarried couples have only one legally recognized parent – their mother. The father has no legal obligations toward the child until his paternity is established.
Paternity determinations can be voluntary or involuntary. A Cobb County paternity lawyer can help a parent establish or refute their child’s paternity. Count on a dedicated child custody attorney from our firm to help you through your situation.
In Georgia, paternity is a confirmation of a biological relationship. When a man’s paternity is established, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he has an obligation to pay child support to the child’s mother. However, he has no other rights to the child and is not considered a legal parent.
Full legal parental rights only come from legitimizing a child. A father who legitimates his child can seek custody and visitation. Legitimation occurs when the father marries the child’s mother. Alternatively, the father could file a petition with the family court asking the judge to legitimate the child after establishing his paternity.
A Cobb County attorney can advise a parent about paternity and legitimation, including the steps they must take to achieve either or both and their potential benefits.
Unmarried parents can voluntarily establish their child’s paternity. Hospitals have Acknowledgement of Paternity forms the parents can complete to do so. After signing, the hospital will provide a notary and file the form with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics.
If the parents do not sign an Acknowledgement at the hospital, they could do so at any time before the child’s first birthday. If both parents sign the form, the father’s name will appear on the child’s birth certificate, and he will have the legal obligation to contribute to the child’s support and health care. An attorney in Cobb County can further explain the obligations that attach to acknowledging paternity.
Sometimes a father believes a child is his, but the mother denies it, or the father and mother are no longer in contact. In such cases, a father could register with the Putative Father Registry. If a man is on file with the putative father registry, he will receive notice if the child is put up for adoption or is the subject of other court proceedings. Registration as a putative father does not convey parental rights.
When a father is unwilling to acknowledge paternity, a mother seeking child support must bring a paternity action in family court. The Official Code of Georgia § 19-7-43 also allows the child, the father, anyone caring for the child, and the Department of Human Services to file a court petition seeking to determine paternity.
Unless the parents agree on the father’s identity, the family court will usually order a DNA test. The test involves analyzing cells from the mother, the alleged father, and the child. The court may presume paternity if the test indicates a 97 percent or greater probability that the man is the child’s father.
However, if the man still believes he is not the child’s father, he can rebut the presumption. A Cobb County attorney can help individuals gather and present any available evidence to help dispute paternity. This information could involve the man’s fertility, the time of the baby’s conception, or other facts indicating someone else fathered the child.
Paternity is the first step in legitimating a child and is also an important factor in child support as well as custody and visitation matters. When you wish to establish your child’s paternity, or if you are the subject of an action to establish paternity, consult with a Cobb County paternity lawyer. Our team can provide you with the guidance and assistance you need with this delicate matter.