When it comes to establishing paternity, Georgia law places a lot of emphasis on whether or not the parents were married at the time of the child's birth. Although mothers are given inherent legal rights when it comes to their children, fathers are not. If you fathered a child with a woman you were not married to, then you need to take action in order to preserve your legal rights as a father. Contact the Don Turner Legal Team today and see how our family law attorneys can help you establish or challenge your paternity.Protect Your Legal Rights as a Father
If a child is born out of wedlock, the mother is given full custody and parental power over her child. By default, the father has no legal relationship with his child and none of the legal rights the mother enjoys. Simply signing the child's birth certificate does not give the father any legal rights, although it does establish his identity and can be used to order child support payments. In order for a father to secure a legal relationship with his child, he needs to legitimate the child.
Legitimation is important for several reasons. It allows a man to be recognized as the child's father in the eyes of the law. It also allows him to assert his right to visitation and custody of the child. Finally, it allows gives the child the legal right to inherit from the father and vice-versa.
There are four ways a father can legitimate a child. If he was married to the mother at the time of birth, then the child is considered legitimately his. Alternatively, he can marry the mother after she gives birth to the child and recognize it as his own, assuming his paternity was not challenged. He can also legally adopt the child. Finally, he has the option to file a petition for legitimacy in court.Legitimating a Child
If a child is less than a year old, and the mother consents to this, she and the father can sign a voluntary acknowledgement of legitimation and submit it to the court. If the mother gave birth in a Georgia hospital, and the father is present, the staff will present him with this document, along with a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. Either parent can take back their consent to the acknowledgement within 60 days of signing this document.
The mother is allowed to object to the petition for legitimation, as long as her parental rights have not been terminated and no termination action is pending. Her current or former husband is also allowed to challenge the petition, as long as he did not divorce the mother for giving birth to another man's child. In this case, the matter will need to be settled in court, which can become a drawn-out affair, especially if custody is an issue. This is why you need an experienced family lawyer on your side.
Legitimation actions can only be filed by a child's biological father and must be filed in the mother's county of residence. If the mother is married or was married to another man, then a biological father will have a tough road ahead of him in court. Under Georgia law, the presumption is that a woman's husband is the father of her child. This is a difficult presumption to overcome and will require a strong amount of evidence.
Note that simply establishing a biological relationship with a child via a DNA test does not give a father the right to have his legitimation action granted. The court will ultimately make their decision based on what they feel is in the best interest of the child. A biological father who never made an effort to support his child or develop a relationship with them is unlikely to have his petition for legitimation granted.Challenging Paternity Judgments
If you were incorrectly determined to be a child's biological father and ordered to financially support a child that is not yours, you may have legal remedies available to you. There are multiple reasons paternity may be challenged. The genetic test results might have been tainted, fraudulent, or outright tampered with. You might be able to provide proof that you are sterile or infertile. Finally, the mother might have committed infidelity within her marriage at the time of conception.
In order to challenge a judgement of paternity, you will need to file a motion with the Superior Court, along with a) affidavit stating that new evidence has come to light since paternity was determined by the court and b) a genetic test administered within 90 days prior to the filing of said motion, which demonstrates a zero percent possibility of you being the father.
If you are able to satisfy these requirements, the court will grant your motion, provided they find that:
- The genetic test you submitted was properly conducted
- You did not act to prevent the biological father from asserting his paternal rights
- You did not adopt the child or marry the mother
- You did not knowledge your paternity in a sworn statement, consent to being named as the father on the child's birth certificate, or make a voluntary written promise to support the child
- You did not receive written notice from any state agency requiring you to submit to genetic testing, which you then disregarded
However, if you voluntarily acknowledged your paternity and believe this decision was made in error, then challenging your paternity in court will be a bit more complicated. Contact our law office today so we can discuss your options for challenging your paternity.