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What is 'legitimation' in Georgia?

Due to media coverage over the last decade, most Georgia residents are probably aware of the legal issue of paternity, especially with regards to subjects such as child support and child custody. Many gossip columns have made hay out of rumors of children of celebrities and their putative fathers. However, some people may be less familiar with another legal concept of consequence in Georgia family law: that of 'legitimation.'

While the terms have gone out of style here in the first half of the 21st century, children born during the marriage of two people used to be called 'legitimate' and those born outside of a marriage were 'illegitimate.' While the social distinction has largely disappeared in many places, probably for good reason, the legal distinction remains.

But how is 'legitimacy' different from 'paternity?' Under Georgia law, paternity only establishes that a person is the 'legal' father of a child. It may well bind a father to financial support of the child. However, according to the Georgia Department of Human Services, the establishment of paternity is not sufficient to allow a father to pursue rights to custody and visitation.

For these issues to be raised, the father must go through the process of 'legitimation.' Further, a child who was born out of wedlock and has not been 'legitimated' may not be able to inherit from his or her father or take benefits under that father's insurance policies or through governmental entitlement programs in the father's name.

As it seems, the issue of legitimation may well be very important to fathers who wish to be a part of their children's lives in way other than financial. Future blogs in this space may discuss the general process of legitimation. Anyone who has specific questions about his or her situation, however, may want to consider seeking legal guidance about their situation. This could provide the individual with general information so he or she can take timely action.

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