In Georgia, family law issues can range from disagreements about property division, alimony, child custody, parenting time and child support. Anything child-related can and often does lead to discord between the parents. An added complication is if there is a disagreement about the child’s paternity. This could be because the alleged father and the mother were unmarried at the time. Or it might be because there was infidelity in the marriage. Since establishing paternity – also referred to as legitimation – is so fundamental in settling these areas of disagreement, it is imperative that both parents understand key points about it under state law.

Paternity acknowledgements and the putative father registry in Georgia

There are several factors with paternity establishment that should be known from the outset. Simply acknowledging or determining paternity is only one step in the process as it establishes a father as the biological parent. To have a legal relationship in which the father has the right to custody and parenting time and the custodial parent – if it is the mother – can ask for support, there must be an establishment of paternity. This can be accomplished if the parents are legally married when the child is born; if there is a court order; or the unmarried parents have completed and signed a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form. For the form, it must be done at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth or at the State Office of Vital Records in the birth county.

Fathers should also be cognizant of the putative father registry (PFR). This is a list with information about men who might be a child’s biological father. The man will be included if he has acknowledged paternity or registered as the putative father based on the possibility that he is the biological father. Fathers should know about PFR if there is a chance he is the father; if the mother is not allowing the man to have contact with the child he believes is his; or if he is unaware of where the child lives. Any of these issues can cause a problem for the potential father and being listed on the PFR is a crucial aspect of forging a relationship and playing a role in the child’s life. For example, if the mother does not inform the father of any of the above information and places the child up for adoption when the father might want custody, then PFR can address that.

Experienced guidance can help with legitimation

In family law, children can be caught in the middle. This is particularly problematic if there is uncertainty over paternity. Legitimation can help solve that for the good of everyone involved. For the mother, it is vital to establish paternity to ensure that the proper support is paid on time and in full. There are other reasons for which paternity is critical for the mother including having a father in the child’s life and the positive aspects of a family unit helping with the child’s upbringing. For fathers, their rights to have parenting time and play a role in the child’s life are also important, making it necessary to establish paternity and legitimate the child. On the other side of the coin, if a man is not the biological father of a child, then he will understandably want to know that so he is not ordered to make support payments when he is not legally obligated to do so. Having experienced assistance regardless of the perspective can be helpful.