Actions for Legitimation of a Child are brought pursuant to O.C.G.A. 19-7-22.
In the State of Georgia, if you have had a child outside of wedlock, the child is not considered legitimate as a matter of law. Through a Petition for Legitimation, a parent (normally the father) legally recognizes the child as their child. Legitimation insures that the child may inherit from the biological father and is a precursor to establishing parental rights for the biological father.
A mother, as a matter of giving birth to the child, has legal rights vested in her and her family as soon as the child is born. However, the father who has a child out of wedlock does not have any legal rights to the child. This is even the case if the father has provided support for the child, signed the birth certificate, seen the child on a regular basis, and held himself out to the community as the father of the child.
A father seeking to legitimate the child may also request that the Court order DNA testing to insure that the purported father is in fact the biological father of the child.
Once a father files a legitimation action, the Court must first determine if the father has abandoned his opportunity interest to develop a relationship with the child baesd on the continuum of unwed father-child relationships. After this determination, the Court looks at various factors to see whether or not the father’s petition to legitimate should be granted. Two (2) tests are used by the Court – 1) a test of fitness as a parent, or 2) the best interest of the child test. Ultimately this means that when a biological father files a Petition to Legitimate, it is an automatically given that he will be allowed to legitimate the child.