When a child is born to parents who are not married, issues of parental rights and responsibilities may arise. Georgia courts address these issues through a process of legitimation or paternity.
Legitimation is the action initiated by a biological father to establish a legal relationship with a child. The legal effects that result from legitimation include the ability to make legal decisions on behalf of a child, custody and visitation, duty to provide financial support and inheritance rights. In Georgia, the birth mother of a child born outside of marriage has exclusive custodial rights until a father legitimizes the child.
Paternity is the action initiated generally by a birth mother, but may be initiated by a biological father, to establish a father’s legal relationship and duty to provide financial support to a child. While paternity establishes a father’s duty to support, it does not award a father with any other rights, such as custody or visitation. If paternity is contested, Georgia courts will often order genetic testing.