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What is a 'voluntary paternity acknowledgement' in Georgia?

We've previously touched on some of the processes for adoption, as well as the concept of "legitimation" in this space. To refresh, legitimation is the process by which the putative father of the child acknowledges his parental relationship and thus acquires certain legal rights and responsibilities. This is distinct from biological paternity in Georgia, which can be established by DNA testing and may bind the father to child support payments, but not grant other rights. Children born during a marriage are considered the children of the married couple, but the fathers of children born out of wedlock need to legitimate their children if they want parental rights.

On way a child born to an unmarried couple can be legitimated is by the parents signing a voluntary paternity acknowledgement. This is a document that many hospitals have, and can be signed at the time the baby is born. Both parents sign the form acknowledging that the man is, in fact, the father of the child at issue. By doing this, the father is establishing his parental relationship with the child, binding him to financially support and provide medical insurance for the child until the child turns 18. He is also given the right to have his name reflected on the child's birth certificate, be given notice of any adoption proceedings involving the child, and may be able to request custody of or visitation with the child.

The voluntary paternity acknowledgment can be signed by both parents after the child's birth, and as long as it is notarized, can be submitted to the state's Vital Records Office. If doubt about the child's paternity arises after the signing of such form, it can be rescinded within 60 days of the signing, or until a court order of paternity, whichever comes first. After that, a petition would have to be filed with a court, and the challenging party will have the burden of proof. Therefore, it is vital that a father be as certain as possible that the child is his, or that he wishes to be the father regardless, before signing a voluntary paternity acknowledgement.

Legitimation and paternity may be complicated issues for unwed parents to deal with. The various ways in which paternity can be established may become confusing to some, and parents may have differences as to how to deal with the process. For this reason, anyone wishing to establish paternity or legitimate a child may wish to consider consulting an experienced Georgia family lawyer.

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