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A New Year; A New You

Happy New Years. Welcome to 2019 and the new you. Often you hear the phrase "New Year, New You." This notion is meant to inspire change and improvement in the new year, to start fresh. The new year can be just that for unwed fathers. Make 2019 the year you change and improve yourself and your family.

Many couples are having children out of wedlock (and there is nothing wrong with that). However, for fathers in Georgia, this means you have no legal right to your children. This may not seem so bad if you, as the father, are still in a healthy, functioning and loving relationship with your significant other. You get to see your sons and daughters every day. You get to watch them grow and thrive. You get to see each step they take, each growth they make.

While things are so great, you may not be considering the "what ifs"? What if you and your significant other separate? What if your relationship falls apart? What if you do not get to see your children every day? What if you are no longer allowed to make decisions for your children? Do not wait until that happens. Do not wait until things are bad in your relationship. You can legitimate your children now.

It is a new year. Be a new you. Legitimate your children so you have legal rights. Many fathers are unaware that without legitimating you do not have the legal right to see your children, to make decisions for your children, or to even have access to your children.

The mother of the children can withhold visitation, move away, and limit access should things turn sour. However, Georgia allows for a remedy. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 19-7-20(b), "The biological father of a child born out of wedlock may render his relationship with the child legitimate by petitioning the superior court of the county of the residence of the child's mother or other party having legal custody or guardianship of the child."

Further, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 19-7-20(d)(1), "Upon presentation and filing of a legitimation petition, and after a hearing for which notice was provided to all interested parties, the court may issue an order declaring the biological father's relationship with the child to be legitimate, provided that such order is in the best interests of the child."

And while you are at it, you can clarify your other rights and responsibilities to your children and you can set out terms for legal and physical custody.

Do not wait until things turn sour. Do not wait until it is too late. Do not bet the farm that everything will remain exactly as it is. Legitimating your children can be a resolution, a New Year's resolution. It does not have to be a fight. It does not have to be contentious. You do not have to be in conflict with your significant other to legitimate your child. It can be peaceful, it can be amicable. It can be joyful.

It is a new year. Be the same caring and loving father. Be a new legal father, a new you.

William King

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