Tonight’s post on legitimation was written by Savannah Family Law Attorney, David Purvis.
It’s a regular story during my consultations with biological Fathers. A child was born some years back (sometimes 15 or 16 years back). Child was born out of love and out of wedlock. Father never filed for legitimation.
The parents’ relationship fell apart. They moved on. Father remained in child’s life, exercising regular visitation, providing support. Everything was going along well, for awhile.
Suddenly, Mother won’t allow Father any visitation. Perhaps Father has found another love and Mother hasn’t. Perhaps Mother is making decisions about the child and Father disagrees. Perhaps child has reached the age of election and wants to live with Father. Now, Father sits across from me, asking what legal recourse he has.
Unfortunately for biological Father, he has zero legal rights to the child. He may have been an excellent Father to the child, but in the eyes of the law, he is not the legal Father, and thus has no legal recourse in making decisions for his child. Father suffers at Mother’s whim for any access to his child. The child can’t even choose to live with him!
I wish I had a time machine to take Father back to when his relationship with Mother was still strong. A legitimation action then would have likely been a lot smoother when both parents were still in love or in lust. They would have had a better chance at coming to an amicable resolution to the legitimation action.
Now that the relationship has soured; the stage is set for a contentious proceeding. Mother may claim that Father has not been involved in the child’s life. Mother may claim that Father has not supported the child. Mother may claim that Father should not have the right to be a part of making major decisions. Father may now be seeking primary custody of the child or desire tie-breaker authority in making major decisions. Yet Father is starting out at zero, zero legal custody rights, zero physical custody rights.
If you are the Father of a child born out of wedlock in Georgia, there are few ways to legitimate the child except for a legitimation action filed in court. If I had my druthers, the legitimation action would be brought very early on, even while the parents’ relationship is still strong. Father would then be set up with legal rights, so that when the relationship sours later on, as it often does, Father has already established legal standing and now has firmer footing on which to pursue an expansion of his legal rights with his child.
Just remember: DON’T WAIT. LEGITIMATE!