If your son or daughter is born out of wedlock in Georgia, state law grants the mother sole custody. If you, the father, wishes to establish a legal relationship with your child and obtain visitation or custody rights, you must not only establish paternity, but you must also establish legitimation. FindLaw explains the differences between paternity and legitimation.

Though a father can receive legitimation at the same time the courts establish paternity, paternity is not automatic grounds for custody and visitation. Once the courts establish paternity, the courts will add your name to the birth certificate and hold you financially accountable for child support.

Establishing paternity is a fairly simply process that requires your voluntary appearance on your child’s birth certificate. If your child’s other parent contests paternity, you may request genetic testing, which the courts will do either by swabbing yours and your child’s cheek or testing your blood. If the mother refuses to allow your alleged child to undergo genetic testing, the courts may issues a court order.

Establishing legitimation is much more difficult than establishing paternity. If you hope to gain visitation rights with your child, parenting time or custodial rights, you may have to go through the same process as divorcing parents. If your child’s mother contests your legitimation, you may have to produce evidence to refute her claims. If the courts decide her allegations are untrue, it will then require you and the mother to go through traditional custody proceedings.

You should not use this article as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.