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How does one 'legitimate' a child in Georgia?

We have previously discussed the concept of "legitimation" as it pertains to the rights of a Georgia father as far as dealing with adoption cases. To refresh, the law recognizes two similar but separate paternal relationships between father and child. "Paternity" is the state of being a child's biological father, and places upon him the financial responsibility for a child, but does necessarily confer any legal rights on the father. Legitimation, however, creates a legal relationship between father and child such that the father has potential rights to custody and visitation. A legitimate father also would need to consent to any adoption of his minor child.

So, how does one go about legitimating a child in Georgia? According to the Georgia Department of Human Services, fathers may legitimate a child voluntarily through the administrative process, or it can be done by judicial decree. The administrative path must be taken before the child turns one-year-old, and involves the father signing the legitimation portion of the state's Paternity Acknowledgement Form. This cannot be done, however unless the mother agrees, and the mother is not married to anyone else at the time.

The judicial process must be used if administrative legitimation has not taken place. To do so, the father would file a petition for legitimation in the county where the child resides with the mother or guardian, unless the child lives outside the state, in which case it is filed in the father's county of residence. The petition must include the name, date of birth and sex of the child, as well as the mother's name, and whether the father wishes for the child's name to be changed. If possible the mother must be served with the petition, and she has the right to contest the legitimation at a hearing. The contest of legitimation is based upon the petitioner not being the biological father of the involved child, or by a showing that he has lost his opportunity interest to develop a relationship with him or her.

As can be seen, just being the biological parent may not be enough to stop a child's adoption. Legitimation is an important concept in the state's family law regime, and fathers may wish to be certain they are aware of all the legal requirements, possibly by consulting an family law attorney.

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