A child born out of wedlock in Georgia is considered illegitimate, giving the mother of the child rights not available to the father. In Georgia, paternity establishes the identity of the biological father. This allows the mother in a paternity action to collect child support from the father of her child. Or it, in turn, allows the father in a legitimation action to acquire the rights of physical and legal custody. Without first establishing paternity, these issues cannot be addressed by a court.
In Georgia, the following actions can establish paternity:
- A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity;
- A birth certificate with the father’s name on it, entered with his consent;
- An administrative determination of paternity;
- Both parents being married at the time the child was born (paternity is presumed).
It is important to note that paternity does not provide a father with additional rights to the child. Instead, except when the parents are married, in order to gain rights as a father, a legitimation action must also be pursued.
Under certain circumstances, paternity may be challenged by:
- A mother deciding to challenge the paternity of the father who signed the birth certificate;
- A father choosing to challenge paternity after having discovered the child may not be his;
- A man, during a divorce, challenging paternity, even though he had been married to the mother when the child was born and may have treated the child as his own (paternity is presumed, even if the man may have known the child was not his).
Challenging paternity requires working with an experienced paternity attorney, as these cases can become complicated. They can be even more difficult if a significant amount of time has passed, and the father and child have developed an emotional or psychological bond.
Either parent may file a lawsuit challenging paternity. To initiate the process, a complaint is filed with the court, and the court then typically orders tests and evidence in order to determine paternity. This could involve conducting new tests or challenging a prior finding of paternity based on incorrect test results, proof of fraud, and/or proof of sterility, infertility, infidelity, etc. In many circumstances, the scientific evidence determines that the named father is not the biological father of the child.