July 1, 2011
By: John R. Coleman, Jr. and Anne K. Banford
Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP
This article is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended, nor should be construed to provide legal advice.
In the State of Georgia, if a child is born out of wedlock, the mother is the only parent who is entitled to custody of the child. (O.C.G.A. § 19-7-25) A father must file a petition in Superior Court to legitimate his relationship with the child and request an Order establishing custodial rights to the child. It is not uncommon for hospitals to offer the parents of a child the option to execute an acknowledgment of paternity. Parents are often confused that this form is all that needs to be done to legitimate the child.
Pursuant to Georgia law, an acknowledgment of paternity can be signed when both the mother and the father agree the father is the biological father of the child born out of wedlock. (O.C.G.A. § 19-7-46.1) When an acknowledgment of paternity has been executed and recorded with the putative father registry, the father’s name can be listed on the child’s birth certificate. The appearance of the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate shall be considered a prima-facie establishment of paternity of the child. The burden of proof is then on the father to disprove he is the father.
When as acknowledgment of paternity has been executed and recorded with the putative father registry, the acknowledgment shall constitute a legal determination of paternity for the purposes of any future court order to establish child support, custody and visitation, and other issues related to the child.
Either party has 60 days from the time the acknowledgment of paternity is signed to rescind the acknowledgment. After the 60 days, an acknowledgement of paternity may only be challenged based on fraud, duress, or material state of fact.
It is important to note that an acknowledgment of paternity does NOT constitute a legal determination of legitimation pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 19-7-22. (O.C.G.A. § 19-7-46.1 (b)) Therefore, the mother is still considered the only legal parent until the father petitions the court to establish his custodial rights to the child. When an acknowledgment of paternity has been filed, the child may be legitimated by including a statement indicating there was a voluntary acknowledgment of legitimation. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-22 (g)(2).
A paternity acknowledgement can be completed at the county Vital Records registrar’s office, the state office of Vital Records, or the probate judge’s office. A father wishing to acknowledge possible paternity without the mother’s consent can register with the Putative Father Registry which is kept by Vital Records. The Putative Father Registry Registration Form can be found online at http://health.state.ga.us/programs/vitalrecords/fatherregform.asp.
The facts of each case are considered individually by the Court. You should consult with an experienced legitimation lawyer regarding the specific facts of your situation. To learn more about how our legitimation & child custody lawyers can help you in: Hall County (Gainesville), Dawson County (Dawsonville), White County, Forsyth County (Cumming), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Union County, Habersham County (Cornelia, Clarkesville, Baldwin), Towns County (Hiawassee), Stephens County (Toccoa), Rabun County (Clayton), Banks County (Homer), Fulton County (Atlanta), Gwinnett (Lawrenceville, Buford) and Jackson County (Jefferson). Please call the family law attorneys at Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP to discuss your options. Please call 678-928-5757 .