What to Expect with Paternity and Legitimation Procedures

The process of going through a paternity suit or legitimation petition for a father can be stressful and confusing. Georgia law establishes two distinct levels of recognition of the relationship between a father and a child born out of wedlock: paternity and legitimation. Paternity establishes who the biological father of the child is and obligates the payment of child support. Legitimation establishes parental rights to the child and gives the father the ability to request custody or visitation. Legal proceeding for legitimation and for paternity can help parents to define their legal rights and responsibilities for non-marital children.


Fathers who were not married at the time of their child’s birth must take the affirmative step of establishing legitimation before their parental rights are recognized under Georgia law. Only the biological father of a child may file a petition seeking to legitimate his child. The petition must be filed in the county of the residence of the child’s mother or other party having legal custody or guardianship of the child. The petition must set forth the name, age, and sex of the child, and the name of the mother. The petition for legitimation may also include claims for visitation, parenting time, or custody.

Who Can Establish Paternity?

Under Georgia law, when parents are not married, a petition to establish the paternity of a child may be brought by:

  • The child,
  • The mother of the child,
  • Any relative in whose care the child has been placed,
  • The Department of Human Services (Division of Child Support Services) in the name of and for the benefit of a child for whom public assistance is received or in the name of and for the benefit of a child not the recipient of public assistance whose custodian has applied for services for the child, or
  • One who is alleged to be the father.

Ways to Establish Paternity

Establishing paternity for a child in Georgia may be done in one of the following ways:

  • The child’s parents are legally married to each other at the time of the child’s birth;
  • Unwed parents sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Form at either the hospital where the child is born or at the State Office of Vital Records in the county where the child is born;
  • Court order paternity testing.

Paternity Obligations: Child Support

Child support is a form of support payment that is often ordered when two parents are no longer living together. It is in the best interest of any child to have financial support from both parents. Child support is paid by one parent to the other, either after a divorce or between two parents who were never married. Normally, the parent who is not living with or raising the child will be required to pay a set amount each month for the upkeep and care of the child.

Contact An Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

Nothing is more important than your child. If you have questions about how to legitimize a child or are interested in commencing a paternity proceeding, having a lawyer with the knowledge and skills needed to guide you through these proceedings is important.

To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation in Suwanee, Johns Creek, Cumming, Forsyth County, Gwinnett County, Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, or Dawson County, please call our office today at (678) 257-4507. You may also schedule a consultation online.