Georgia Legitimation FAQs
1. What is a "legitimation"?
Legitimation is a legal action that is the only way, other than by marrying the mother of a child, that the father of a child born in the State of Georgia may establish legal rights to his child.
2. Who may file for legitimation?
Only the father of a child may file a petition seeking to legitimate his child.
3. What is the legal effect of legitimation?
An order of legitimation creates a father and child relationship legally between the petitioner and his child. An order of legitimation establishes that the child may inherit from this legal father and vice versa. An order of legitimation allows the legal father to be listed on the child's birth certificate as such. An order of legitimation is the only way that the father of a child born out of wedlock can be recognized as the legal father of a child and therefore can petition for custody and/or visitation with this child.
If custody is to be an issue, custody and legitimation may now be addressed in the same action. If your child has been legitimated and the child's mother dies, you will not automatically receive custody of the child. If you are already listed on the child's birth certificate as the father, but you and the child's mother were not married to each other, you must still file a petition with the court to legitimate your child.
4. Where should the petition be filed?
The Petition for Legitimation must be filed in the child's county of residence, or if there is an adoption pending, in the county where the adoption was filed.
5. How much does it cost to file for legitimation?
The basic filing fee is $80.00. If the mother has not acknowledged service of the petition, she will need to be served with the petition by the sheriff--this costs $25.00 for each address to which the sheriff has to go if you are in the State of Georgia. ["Service" is an official way to give notice to the mother that you have filed your case and that she has the opportunity to then file a response with the court.] If the mother has left the child with you and you do not know her address and you have tried but cannot find her, then you will have to serve her with the Petition by Publication.
You must make a written statement to the court about your monthly income and monthly expenses, and why it would be a hardship for you to have to pay the filing.
7. How long will all of this take?
The length of time depends on the facts of your case. There are several options for what can happen with your case:
If the mother of the child consents to the legitimation, the two of you can sign a document that may be presented to the Court for approval immediately. Depending upon the Court's work load, this may take a few days.
If the mother or another "father" dispute the legitimation, the opposing party must be served with process. Discovery may or may not be necessary. Eventually, it may be necessary to have a hearing on the issue. How long this takes will be determined by the specific facts of the case and how each side responds to the other during the litigation process.
If Custody is at issue in a contested the legitimation action, it will probably have the effect of making the action more complicated and making it last longer.