Tonight's post on Legitimation was written by one of our Atlanta Family
Several days ago, our downtown Atlanta office received a call from an elderly
gentleman who stated that he desperately wanted to establish relations
with his middle-age son and legitimize him. He said that his biggest regret
in life was that he was never in his son's life. He said: "I
want to make it right, before it's too late".
Unfortunately, it is too late. Of course, the gentleman can try to develop
a relationship with his son who may forgive him at some point, but he
is about 25 years too late for a legitimation process.
Under Georgia law, only a minor child can be legitimized. After a child
reaches the age of majority, legitimation is not possible. The purpose
of legitimation is for a father of a child born out of wedlock to establish
his relationship with the child in the eyes of the law. Without legitimation,
sole custody, in fact every single one of the bundle of rights to the
child, belongs to the mother.
Another way to establish legal relationship to a child in Georgia would
be marrying the mother of the child, either before the child is born,
obviously, or after the child is born, coupled with holding the child
out as your own. "This is my child!"
The third way is the way that we get involved. A father files a legitimation
action in Superior Court, asking the judge to pronounce him legal daddy.
According to the National Vital Statistics Report, in 2010, 40.8% of all
children were born to unmarried mothers. So this information
applies to almost half of all fathers out there!
Upon legitimation, the father and child are closer to having the same rights
as if the child were born in marriage. The father can seek custody and
visitation, and ask a judge to change the last name of the child to his
last name. Additionally, legitimation enables the father to inherit from
It is worth noticing that a biological father is obligated to pay child
support regardless of whether a child is legitimized or not. So, it only
makes sense to obtain rights that stem from a father-child relationship,
because an obligation to pay is enforced either way.
In addition, legitimation brings lots of benefits to a child. Without legitimation,
a child cannot inherit from his father unless he or she is mentioned in
a will. They also cannot receive his social security benefits. A child
cannot get access to his father's medical records. The latter is especially
important nowadays because a medical history of family members can be
invaluable for medical diagnosis purposes.
Further, the child can be placed in a paternal relative's home if a
mother dies or becomes unable to take care of the child.
Here's another story from the pages of no legitimation tragedy: a paternal
grandmother has been raising her grandchild from day one. Her son did
not marry the child's mom and has spent every day in jail since before
the child was born. Even though the biological grandmother is the de facto
primary caregiver, legally she has no standing with regards to the child's
custody. She has nothing, though, for the child, she is his whole world.
The bottom line is, in Georgia, fathers should step up to the plate and
legitimize their children. It's all gain, and no pain.