Tonight’s post on Legitimation was written by one of our Atlanta Family Law Attorneys, Khismatulina, Dina.
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.
Only Minors Can Be Legitimized in Georgia
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.
The Benefits of Legitimization
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 child to inherit from the father.
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.
The Importance of Knowing How to Get Your Child Legitimized in Georgia
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.
FAQ About Legitimization
Naturally, you may have some questions about how to get legitimized in Georgia, and what is involved. Here are some general answers to those questions, but circumstances may differ drastically from case to case, so we highly recommend consulting with a family law attorney to get relevant information for your specific case.
Q: How to get a child legitimized in Georgia?
A: Essentially, how to get a child legitimized in GA is as simple as filing a legitimation action as the child’s father in Superior Court. This involves submitting a petition requesting the court to establish a legal relationship between the father and the child. In reality however, the legitimization process involves numerous steps and details that could affect the final decision, which is why you need to consult with a family law attorney before you begin.
Q: How to file a petition for legitimation?
A: To file a petition for legitimation in Georgia, you will need to follow these steps:
- Consult with an attorney: Seek legal advice from a family law attorney who can provide guidance and assistance throughout the process on how to get legitimized in GA.
- Gather necessary documents: Prepare the required documents, such as the child’s birth certificate, proof of paternity (if applicable), and any other supporting documentation.
- Complete the petition: Fill out the petition for legitimation form, providing accurate and detailed information about the father, child, and the desired legal relationship.
- File the petition: Submit the completed petition to the Superior Court in the county where the child resides. Pay the filing fee, which may vary depending on the county.
- Serve notice: Arrange for the other party involved (usually the mother) to be served with a copy of the petition. Proper service ensures that all parties are aware of the legal proceedings.
- Attend court hearings: Attend any scheduled court hearings related to the legitimation action. It is crucial to comply with court procedures and present your case effectively.
Q: How much does it cost to get legitimized in GA?
A: The cost of getting legitimized in Georgia can vary depending on various factors, such as attorney fees, court filing fees, and other associated expenses. It is recommended to consult with a family law attorney to get an accurate estimate of the costs involved based on your specific situation.
Q: Does signing a birth certificate legitimize a child?
A: No, signing a birth certificate alone does not legitimize a child in Georgia. While signing the birth certificate acknowledges paternity, it does not establish a legal relationship between the father and the child. Legitimation requires a separate legal process, such as filing a legitimation action in Superior Court, as mentioned earlier. It is important to complete the legitimation process to ensure the full legal rights and benefits for both the father and the child.