Laws regarding paternity (or fatherhood) differ considerably across the country. In Georgia, being the actual father of a child does not necessarily establish paternity for legal purposes, such as rights to visitation, shared custody, support, etc. In fact, listing of an individual’s name as “father” on a birth certificate (even if the man in question, himself, signs as father) will not guarantee those basic paternity rights to that man.
When the actual father is legally married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth, that marriage provides a basis for legitimation. In fact, that marriage creates the presumption – in the eyes of the law – that that husband is the father.
That is the simplest scenario in establishing paternity, but what if the situation involves two individuals who are not married at the time of a child’s birth? Maybe the parents wed after the birth, or maybe the parents never marry. In still other cases, the mother may be married to someone other than the child’s actual father at the time of the child’s birth, or the actual father may be married to someone other than the child’s mother.
In these, more complicated cases, the route necessary to establish paternity will vary depending on marital circumstances and whether the mothers, fathers, and other parties involved in the case can reach an agreement regarding paternity.
When, for example, there is no dispute as to who the actual father of the child is, unwed parents may complete certain paperwork, acknowledging paternity:
1. at the hospital when the child is born, or later at either
- after the child is born, at the State Office of Vital Records in Atlanta or
- after the child is born, at the Vital Records Office in the county where the child was born
If, though, the mother is married to someone other than the actual father at the time of the child’s birth, then this acknowledgement will need to be done in conjunction with proceedings to terminate the rights of the presumed father, the man to whom the woman was married, as discussed above.
When there is a dispute between the mother and potential father (or potential fathers), one of the parties must file a legal action in court, in which the court will ultimately make a legal finding as to paternity. Genetic paternity testing may be performed in such a case, if needed to establish actual paternity using DNA analysis. Courts considering such a matter may also take into account other evidence, including the testimony of the mother and potential fathers.
Whether you are a mother – seeking support – or a father – seeking parental rights to your child – in any paternity case, having an experienced attorney on your side is crucial to protect your interests and your child(ren)’s interests. If you or a loved one are facing a situation in which paternity must to be legally established – or are confronted with a potential child support or child custody dispute – you need the help of experienced Georgia family law attorneys to guide you through the process. The experienced family law attorneys at Berelc Law Office, P.C. can greatly assist you.
We are intimately familiar with the court systems – including the attorneys, clerks of court, and other court officials – in courts throughout all areas of Northeast Georgia. We would be happy to assist you through the very stressful process of addressing your situation. Please call us today at (706) 356-0518 to set up a free consultation.