GWINNETT COUNTY PATERNITY AND LEGITIMATION ATTORNEY – Douglas W. Lewis, Esq.
PATERNITY and LEGITIMATION – Frequently Asked Questions
“What does a child ‘born out of wedlock' mean?”
A child born out of wedlock generally means a child that is born to parents that are not married at the time of birth. (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-23).
“What is the difference legally between a child born to parents that are married and a child born out of wedlock?”
When a child is born to parents that are married to each other there is a legal presumption that the husband is the father of the child. Georgia law states that all children born in wedlock are legitimate. A child born out of wedlock is not legitimate (previously known under Georgia law as ‘illegitimate'). The father of a child born out of wedlock must take steps to legitimate (also referred to by some as to legitimize) the child in order to receive parental rights to the child.
“What rights do I have as a mother to a child born out of wedlock?”
When a child is born out of wedlock only the mother of the child is entitled to custody of the child and exercises all parental power over the child unless the father legitimates the child. (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-25).
“What rights does a father have to a child born out of wedlock?”
Georgia law says the father to a child born out of wedlock does not have any legal parental rights to the child unless and until he legitimates the child.
“Does the father of a child born out of wedlock have to pay child support to the mother?”
Both parents have a legal obligation to support a child born out of wedlock. Georgia law states as follows: “It is the joint and several duty of each parent of a child born out of wedlock to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of the child until the child reaches the age of 18 or becomes emancipated, except to the extent that the duty of one parent is otherwise or further defined by court order.” (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-24).
Child support is ordered by the court and the court's order sets forth a specific amount of money that must be paid each month. In order to get child support, the mother of a child born out of wedlock must file a petition for paternity or make application to the Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).
“What does paternity mean?”
To establish paternity means to ‘legally' identify the father of a child. While the identity of a child's biological mother is usually by nature easy to establish, the father's identity may in some cases be uncertain. Paternity issues often arise in cases involving child support, but they can also be important in relation to adoption, inheritance, custody and visitation, health care, and other issues.
The ‘biological father' of a child born out of wedlock is defined as the male who impregnated the biological mother resulting in the birth of the child. When paternity is established the biological father of the child becomes the legal father of the child.”
“How can paternity be established when there is a child born out of wedlock?”
In Georgia there are three ways in which to establish paternity:
- the mother and father of the child are legally married to each other at the time of the child's birth;
- the parents of a child born out of wedlock sign a Georgia Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form either (a) at the hospital at the time of the child's birth or (b) before the child's first birthday at the State Office of Vital Records in Atlanta or at the Vital Records Office in the county where the child was born;
- Court Order – A legal action to establish paternity can be filed by the mother of the child, the father of the child, or by the Division of Child Support Services of the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DCSS) (DCSS may establish paternity through a local Superior Court or through an Administrative Court.
“Once paternity is established can the father be ordered to pay child support and provide medical insurance?”
Yes, once paternity is established then a Court can enter an Order requiring child support to be paid by the father of the child and the Court may also require the father to obtain and maintain medical insurance for the child.
“When can a mother of a child born out of wedlock file a Petition to Establish Paternity?”
A paternity action is often filed after a child is born out of wedlock, however, it can be filed before the child is born. Georgia law states, “if a petition under this article is brought before the birth of the child, all proceedings shall be stayed until after the birth except service of process, discovery, and the taking of depositions” (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-43).
“Where does a mother of a child born out of wedlock file the Petition to Establish Paternity?”
Under Georgia law, the Petition to Establish Paternity must be filed in the Superior Court in the county in which the alleged father resides. However, if the alleged father is not a resident of Georgia then the Petition must be filed in the county in which the child resides. (O.C.G.A. Section 19-7-42). For example, if the child born out of wedlock lived with the mother in Gwinnett County and the alleged father lived in Fulton County then the Petition to Establish Paternity would have to be filed in the Fulton County Superior Court. However, if the father was not a resident of the state of Georgia then the mother would file the Petition to Establish Paternity in the Gwinnett County Superior Court.
Gwinnett County Divorce and Family Law Attorney Douglas W. Lewis has over twenty years of experience in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta Metro area handling divorce, paternity, legitimation, and family law cases. If you have any questions or want to schedule an office consultation then please contact Doug Lewis at 770-682-3765 or via email.