Georgia law provides for a number of different ways in which a parent can establish paternity. Paternity establishes a legal father for a child. If parties are legally married at the time of a child’s birth, paternity is automatically established. If parents are not married at the time of the parties’ marriage, however, one or both parties must take action to establish paternity for the child.
The simplest way for unwed parents to establish paternity is for both parents to sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Form, either at the hospital where the child is born, at the vital records office in the county in which the child was born, or at the state vital records office in Atlanta. This document formally establishes paternity under Georgia law and places the name of the father on the birth certificate. The acknowledgement process also makes the parties financially responsible for the child; in some cases, a father will be ordered to pay child support based on this acknowledgement.
It is important that an alleged father not sign a paternity acknowledgement if he is not absolutely sure that he is the father of the child. The parties only have 60 days following the date of signing the acknowledgement to rescind it, or to invalidate it. If no action is taken within the 60-day period, then the acknowledgement remains legally valid, and a party’s only option is to file with the court to challenge it based on fraud or duress.
The final way to establish a paternity in Georgia is to obtain a court order. If the mother initiates the suit, it is referred to as establishing paternity for a child. If the father initiates the suit, the process is referred to as legitimation. Whichever party starts the process, the end result is the same. A legal father is named for the child and his name is placed on the child’s birth certificate.
A court order that establishes paternity can be a divorce decree, a separation agreement, or other type of judicial or administrative order. If you go through the court order process, you are entitled to have DNA testing in order to definitively prove that the alleged father is the biological father of the child. The court order establishing paternity also establishes legal responsibilities for the parents, such as provisions relating to child support, custody, and visitation.
Establishing a Georgia paternity is a complex process that carries with it many legal rights and responsibilities. As a result, consulting with an Atlanta paternity lawyer is essential so that each party can fully understand his or her options and make decisions based on those options. Contact us or call today to learn how Shaw Law can work with you to achieve the best outcome possible for you and your children.
Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm LLC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309.