What is legitimation?

Generally speaking, a child in Georgia is "born out of wedlock" if the parents aren't married to each other at the time of the birth, and the child is not legitimized after the birth.  This means that the father does not have any rights to the child, regardless of whether he signed the birth certificate or has been ordered to pay child support. Legitimation is a way for a father to claim legal parentage of a child "born out of wedlock." It goes beyond a mere acknowledgment of paternity. Legitimation also gives the child the right to inherit from the father, and the father right to petition the court for custody or visitation.

How can legitimation be established?

Legitimacy can be established by one of three methods:

1. A marriage between the father and mother within 90 days of the birth of the child, with no divorce pending;

2. An order of filiation issued by the Superior Court of the county where the mother resides;

3. The voluntary If none of these options are available, then the father must file a Petition for Legal Recognition with the Juvenile Court. Once filed, the judge will set up a hearing date to determine whether the father should be granted parental rights over his illegitimate child.

Is legitimation always in the child's best interest?

Legitimation establishes a legal parental relationship between a father and his children.  This has the effect of allowing the father to have access to visitation with the children, access to their educational and medical records, and often legal input into major parenting decisions regarding non-emergency medical healthcare, religion, education, and extra curricular activities.  Should something happen to the father, legitimation also allows the children to legally inherit from the father's estate, even if that father does not have a will.

In many cases, the prevailing view of the Court has been that it is the best interest of a child to have two legal parents that can provide love, affection, and financial contribution for the child.  However, if the father has abandoned this opportunity or presents potential harm to the child, a Court may deny legitimation.

Do I need to hire an attorney?

Legitimation can be very confusing, especially since this type of action requires knowledge of the law and what factors a Court will use to decide whether or not to grant a legitimation. You may find yourself facing many challenges when trying to prove whether legitimation is in your child's best interest and our experienced attorneys can guide you through this process.  At The Hull Firm LLC, we offer compassion, understanding, and strong legal support to help you move forward. Make sure your child's best interests are protected — contact us today.

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