Legiti What?

Did you know that if a child is born “out of wedlock” then the dad isn’t legally dad? It’s true. In Georgia, at least. Even if you fill out the paternity paperwork at the hospital and file it with vital records the baby still isn’t “legitimate” until the father goes through the formal legitimation process in superior court.

GA Code, Title 19, Chapter 7, Article 2: “Acknowledgment of paternity shall establish the biological father … but shall not constitute a legal determination of legitimation…”

But what does this mean in the day-to-day life of a parent? Well...

Men, heads up! “Only the mother of a child born out of wedlock is entitled to custody of the child, unless the father legitimates the child... Otherwise, the mother may exercise all parental power over the child.”

This is usually a surprise to dads who only find this out when the relationship goes south. Men find themselves not only going through a break up with their child’s mother but with no legal rights to even visit their child.

But this can be remedied. Fathers can file a Petition for Legitimation and ask for custody and/or visitation. Unless there’s a serious reason why the father shouldn’t have visitation with the child, parenting time is usually ordered by the court. How much time? That depends on lots of factors but I will share that the courts often go by what is called “Standard Visitation.” This describes a schedule where the dad has the kid every other weekend from Friday at 6:00pm until Sunday at 6:00pm. If you want more time with your kid than this, one way to get there is to negotiate with the mother for a more generous schedule.

When a legitimation matter gets before the judge, one thing that will definitely be included in the order is child support. This is sometimes an unpleasant bit of news to one or both parents. How much will be paid for support and by whom? Again, there are several factors involved here. Just know that it has to be addressed in a legitimation action.

Once a legitimation order is issued by the court, “the biological father and child shall be capable of inheriting from each other in the same manner as if born in lawful wedlock.” Does this mean that a kid and dad can’t inherit from each other? I’ve heard mixed reports including when a valid will is in place or when there’s a sympathetic probate judge overseeing the case. But if you want to be sure, then you should probably look into filing for legitimation.

And, of course, if you want to be a part of your child’s life with legal backing to do so, you definitely want to look into legitimation. My suggestion? Use mediation to work out all the issues to a legitimation before you file with the court. It makes it so much easier. Promise.