When you have a child out of wedlock in Georgia, your child is not automatically legitimate. According to Georgia Legal Aid, to say a child is born out of wedlock means that you were unmarried during the child’s conception, birth and did not marry after the birth of the child. A father’s custodial rights hinge on legitimacy. With no legitimacy, a father cannot file for custody or visitation.

Automatic legitimacy occurs if you marry after the birth of the child or if you were married and divorced before the child’s birth. Legitimation establishes parental rights to a father to children who were born to unmarried parents. If you don’t establish legitimacy, the mother receives sole custody and do not have automatic rights to a father’s inheritance.

Do not confuse legitimation with establishing biological parentage. You can conduct a paternity test but until you legitimate your child, you do not establish parental rights. To pay child support, enroll a child in school or to name the child in your will does not establish legitimacy. Likewise, if your child’s birthdate is prior to 2008, signing the birth certificate does not make him or her legitimate.

In order to legitimate your child, you file a Petition for Legitimation with the court. The mother must attend the court hearing but the court legitimates children based on the kid’s best interests. You file the petition in the Superior Court of the mother’s county. If the mother lives out of state, you may file it in your own.

This information provides you with the basics of how legitimization works, but you should not interpret it as legal advice.