Legitimation

Georgia's Petition for Legitimation is an often misunderstood requirement when it comes to children born out-of-wedlock. Romantic relationships, whether an overnight fling or a lasting relationship, can often result in the birth of a minor child. And when the relationship comes to an end, there tends to be an ongoing struggle to maintain an active role in the life of the child born out-of-wedlock.

Almost on a daily basis, questions arise about how a father can exercise his parental rights as pertains to his child. The first question that must be answered is whether the father and mother were married at the time the child was born, or whether they have since married. If the answer to both questions is "no", then Georgia does not automatically extend parental rights to the biological father as pertains to the minor child. However, he is still required to pay child support for the minor child. And if thirty (30) days passes without the father providing any financial support for the minor child, the mother may apply for a criminal warrant for the misdemeanor charge of "abandonment." In order for the Father to enjoy parental rights, if the child is born out-of-wedlock, he must first bring a legitimation proceeding before the Superior Court

The majority of legitimation actions are brought by the biological father mainly because the father desires to have visitation rights, custody, or some input into the upbringing of the minor child. Occasionally, there are instances in which the father will bring a legitimation action as a form of retaliation against the mother, but this is not the fact in a majority of cases.

The Petition for Legitimation will contain language in which the biological father asserts that he is, in fact, the biological father of the minor child. And the petition will include language indicating that the Plaintiff or Petitioner "desires that the minor child be declared the legitimate son (or daughter) of the Plaintiff, capable of inheriting from the Plaintiff in the same manner as if born in lawful wedlock".

In the majority of cases, courts do favor the granting of legitimation petitions. Where courts typically oppose or deny legitimation petitions are in cases in which the father has failed to provide any support for the minor child, and further, has not shown any active interest in participating in the child's life.

If the biological mother opposes the legitimation of the minor child, both parties will need to produce evidence to support their arguments for or against the granting of the petition.

In the event the legitimation is granted, then the court will move to the next phase, the discussion of visitation, child support, primary physical custody and/or legal custody, depending on what relief the Plaintiff is seeking.