Douglas W. Lewis, Lawrenceville Legitimation Attorney – serving Gwinnett County in Legitimation, Paternity, Divorce, Custody, Modification, Contempt, and Family Law cases
GWINNETT LEGITIMATION ATTORNEY – 11 ESSENTIAL THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT LEGITIMATION IN GEORGIA
This is the last installment of a five-part series regarding the 11 Essential Things You Should Know About Legitimation in Georgia
Recent studies have shown that among women under thirty years old, more than one-half of all babies are now born outside of marriage. That means with the new year fast approaching, it is now more likely that the first baby born at Gwinnett Medical Center to a mother under thirty years of age will be born out of wedlock.
Family law attorneys in Gwinnett County are receiving an ever- increasing number of inquiries concerning legitimation and paternity issues in general, and the rights of the biological father of a child born out of wedlock in particular.
In Part I, we discussed that Georgia law states that the biological father of a child born out of wedlock does not have any visitation or custody rights to the child unless he legally legitimates the child and that if a Paternity Acknowledgment form is not signed then the father's name will not appear n the birth certificate.
In Part III, we discussed that a father must file a Petition to Legitimate in order to seek visitation or custody rights to a child born out of wedlock.
In Part IV, we discussed that a Petition for Legitimation typically must be filed in the county of the mother's residence and that either parent can ask the court to order a paternity dna test to determine paternity.
This following addresses #9, #10, and #11 of the most Essential Things You Should Know About Legitimation in Georgia:
9. In a legitimation action, when paternity is proven and the child is declared the legitimate child of the father then the court may decide any issues involving visitation, custody, child support and medical insurance in regards to the minor child(ren).
In a Court hearing, the father of a child born out of wedlock has the right to request that he be granted visitation or custodial rights to the child once the child is legitimated by the court [O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-22(f.1)]. The judge will use the ‘best interests of the child' standard in determining the visitation and custody rights of the mother and the father. The custody arrangement and the visitation or parenting time schedule will be set out by the judge in the Court's Parenting Plan. The judge will also address any issues of setting a monthly child support obligation and whether medical insurance for the child is reasonably available to either of the parents.
10. A Petition for Legitimation is not automatically granted by the Court
Georgia law does not require that the judge in a court hearing grant a petition for legitimation even if there is proof of paternity. Although the general rule is that a judge will grant a petition for legitimation there are rare occasions when the judge may find that it is not in the best interests of the child to legitimate the child. Such cases often involve the court denying the petition to legitimate based on its finding that the father abandoned his ‘opportunity interest' to develop a relationship with the child.
The Supreme Court of Georgia has held that “a biological father is afforded an opportunity to develop a relationship with his offspring. If the father grasps that opportunity and accepts some measure of responsibility for the child's future, he may enjoy the blessings of the parent-child relationship and make uniquely valuable contributions to the child's development…. [U]nwed fathers gain from their biological connection with a child an opportunity interest to develop a relationship with their children which is constitutionally protected. This opportunity interest begins at conception and endures probably throughout the minority of the child. But it is not indestructible. It may be lost…. It is … an interest which can be abandoned by the unwed father if not timely pursued. On the other hand it is an interest which an unwed father has a right to pursue through his commitment to becoming a father in a true relational sense as well as in a biological sense. Absent abandonment of his interest, a state may not deny a biological father a reasonable opportunity to establish a relationship with his child” [Binns v. Fairnot, 292 Ga. App. 336, 338, 665 S.E.2d 36, 38-39 (2008)].
11. The Georgia Child Support Commission has a proposed draft bill that if presented and passed in the 2015 legislative session would repeal O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-21.1 and the ‘Acknowledgment of Legitimation' section of the Paternity Acknowledgment form
There has been much confusion caused by conflicting statutory language concerning administrative legitimation, guardianship and inheritance. (See In re Estate of Hawkins, 328 Ga. App. 436, 762 S.E.2d 149 (2014), cert. denied (Oct. 20, 2014)).
The Georgia Child Support Commission has drafted proposed legislation for the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly which concerns administrative legitimation.
The Commission sought public comment on two draft bills. Draft Bill LC 29 6089 revises the language in O.C.G.A. Section 15-11-2 and 19-7-21.1 in regards to administrative legitimation. Draft Bill LC 29 6090, which the Commission favors, repeals O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-21.1 (administrative legitimation) in its entirety. (See http://www.georgiacourts.org/csc/legislation.html to review the proposed draft bills).
The list of 11 Essential Things you Should Know About Legitimation in Georgia is not meant to be an exhaustive list, nor is it meant to be a thorough discussion of all of the important issues regarding legitimation in Georgia. Rather the list is intended to highlight the issues which are the subject of the most frequently asked questions asked about legitimation in Georgia.
If you or a family member or a friend have any questions about what happens when a child is born out of wedlock in Gwinnett County, or in any other County in the metro-Atlanta area including Cobb, Dekalb, Fulton, Walton, Barrow, Hall and Forsyth counties, then please do not hesitate to immediately call attorney Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 for a free initial telephone consultation.
Lawrenceville Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce, legitimation, paternity and child custody cases, family law cases, personal injury cases, criminal defense, civil litigation cases and estate planning matters. If you have any questions please call the Lawrenceville office for a free initial phone consultation or to schedule an office consultation. You can contact attorney Doug Lewis by telephone at 770-682-3765, via email. Client reviews can be found on Mr. Lewis' Google + page and on his website.