KR: Legitimate & Illegitimate child Part 1
How to Legitimate a Child
Most states in the United States have moved away from "legitimate" and "illegitimate" terminology to refer to children of married or unmarried parents. However, in the state of Georgia any child born out of wedlock must be "legitimated," a process which can only be completed by the child's father. Once genetic paternity has been established, the father files a petition to legitimate the child, which is how he gets legal rights to the child.
Acknowledging Paternity Voluntarily
Receive a voluntary paternity acknowledgement (PA) form.If the child is born in a hospital, staff typically will provide the mother with a PA form shortly after the birth of the child. If you need the form after the child is born, you can get one from your county's vital records office.
- You also can download a form online by visiting the website of the Georgia Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) at cse.dhr.state.ga.us.
- The form requires information about both the mother and father of the child, as well as information about the birth of the child.
- A completed PA form establishes you as the father of the child. This means you may be responsible for paying the mother child support.
- A PA form does not address custody of the child, or grant you any visitation rights.
Complete the form.Both you and the mother must complete the PA form to acknowledge your paternity of the child. There also is a section of the PA form through which you can voluntarily acknowledge the legitimacy of the child. However, paternity and legitimacy are two different things in Georgia.
- If you want to legitimate the child as well as establishing your paternity, you must complete both sections of the form.
- Don't sign the form unless you are certain that you are the biological father of the child. Although the form can be cancelled, this must be done within 60 days of the date it is signed and you'll have to go through additional processes to amend the child's birth certificate accordingly.
- You will need to provide information about yourself including your full name, address, date and state of birth, Social Security number, and employer. The child's mother will have to provide the same information about herself.
Sign the form.Once you and the mother have provided all information required on the PA form, you both must sign it in the presence of a notary public. If you're signing the form at the hospital, they typically will provide a notary for you.
- If you're completing and filing the form after the child's birth, you can fill it out and sign it at the office of vital records. A notary is on staff and will verify your identity and notarize the signatures.
- Make sure you have a valid state-issued ID for the notary to use to verify your identity.
- After you and the child's mother have signed the form, make copies so you each have one for your personal records.
Submit the form to the State Office of Vital Records.Once signed and completed, the form must be filed so the information can be entered correctly on the child's birth certificate. If you're completing the form at the hospital, the hospital typically will take care of submitting the form for you.
- If you've completed the form on your own, for example by downloading the form online, you'll have to find your county's office of vital records.
- You can take the form into the office in person or mail it to the office.
Amend the child's birth certificate.If you completed the PA form after the child was born, you may want to have the child's birth certificate amended so that you are listed as the child's father. However, being listed as the father on the child's birth certificate does not by itself give you any legal rights to the child.
- You only have legal rights to the child if you and the child's mother completed the voluntary legitimation portion of the PA form.
- If you did not complete that portion of the form at the time you signed the PA form, you must go through the process of filing a petition with the courts to legitimate the child.
- To amend your child's birth certificate, contact the vital records office and follow their procedures. You may have to pay a small fee.
Completing DNA Testing
Contact the nearest DCSS office.The DCSS office in the county where the mother lives typically has jurisdiction over the child, and will attempt to find the father of the child so child support can be established.
- Establishing paternity doesn't grant the father any legal rights to the child, even though he may be paying child support.
- In Georgia, you must go through the legal legitimacy process before you have legal rights to the child, including visitation rights.
- DCSS may already have initiated the process of finding the child's biological father. If you believe you are the biological or genetic father of the child, contact the DCSS office that services the county where the child's mother lives.
- DCSS offices are divided into nine regions. Each regional office may service several counties. If you're unsure which DCSS office you need to contact, visit georgia.gov and click on the DCSS link to find the list of DCSS offices.
Provide specimens for testing.Complete DNA testing requires biological samples from the mother, the alleged father, and the child. Typically you'll have to visit the lab where testing is being completed to provide your specimen.
- Typically this is done by taking a swab of your cheek. Blood samples may be taken instead in some instances, depending on the preference of the lab.
- The child does not have to be any particular age to be tested, although labs typically won't take a blood test of a child younger than six months old.
Receive the results of the test.The lab should have the results of the DNA testing within a few weeks. After analyzing the specimens, the lab concludes whether you are the genetic father of the tested child.
- If you contacted a lab on your own to get the testing done, the lab will notify you when the results are ready.
- For tests conducted through DCSS, the results will be sent to DCSS. The office will then notify you of the results and let you know what your next steps should be.
Reimburse DCSS for testing fees.If you had genetic testing completed through the DCSS, the division pays the testing fees initially. DCSS determines who is responsible for paying for the test based on the results of the test.
- Complete testing through DCSS results in fees typically under 0.
- If the test determines that you are not the biological father of the child, the mother must reimburse DCSS for testing.
- However, if the test establishes that you are the father of the child, it will be your responsibility to reimburse DCSS.
- DCSS typically does not require reimbursement of testing fees if the person responsible for reimbursement is a recipient of public benefits.
Petitioning the Court for Legal Rights
Consider hiring an attorney.The legitimacy process is a fairly simple process that you typically can complete ion your own without an attorney. However, if you believe the child's mother will contest your petition, or if the child's mother already has an attorney, you may want to hire one to represent you.
- You also may want to hire an attorney if you don't know where the child's mother lives, or anticipate that you will have difficulty contacting her or having her served with your court papers.
- If you want to hire an attorney, consider using the searchable directory on a state or local bar association's website.
- Georgia Legal Aid also provides legal assistance if you're concerned about your ability to afford an attorney. Even if you don't qualify for full representation, they can still help you fill out your forms and prepare for your hearing.
- Keep in mind that many family law attorneys give a free initial consultation, so it typically won't require any money to simply talk to an attorney and find out if you need legal representation or if you can handle the matter on your own.
Search for forms or templates.The Georgia court system has pre-approved forms that you can use to file a legitimacy petition. Make sure you're using a form that has been approved for use in the county where you're filing your petition, as there may be local variances.
- You typically can find and download these forms on the court website, as well as Georgia Legal Aid's website.
- The forms come with detailed instructions on how to complete the forms properly and file them with the court.
- Make sure you read the instructions carefully and ask a court clerk or legal aid representative to help you if there's something you don't understand. Court clerks can't offer you legal advice, but they can explain forms and court procedures.
Draft your petition.If you're using court-approved forms, you'll draft your petition by filling in the blanks on the form. Ideally you should type your answers, but you also can handwrite your answers. Print legibly and use blue or black ink.
- You are the petitioner, while the child's mother (or the child's legal guardian) is called the respondent.
- You must provide information indicating that the child's mother is a resident of the county in which you're filing your petition. This is necessary to establish the court's jurisdiction over the matter.
- If you don't know where the child's mother is, you must file your petition in the county where you live and fill out an additional affidavit that establishes you have conducted a diligent search for the mother.
- You also must include information about the child, including his or her date of birth and current county of residence.
- Your petition also describes your reasons for believing that you are the child's father, including information about any DNA testing that has been completed to establish paternity.
- Finally, the petition asks the court to declare that the child is your legitimate child, and that you have all legal rights to the child that a legitimate father would have, including the right to custody or visitation.
File your petition.Once you've completed your petition, take the original and two copies to the clerk of the court in the county where the child's mother lives. You will have to pay filing fees, typically around 0, to file your petition with the court.
- If you cannot afford the filing fees, you can complete an affidavit that provides information about your income and assets.
- If you fall within the state's established poverty guidelines, or if you're currently receiving public benefits, the court may waive the fees for you.
- The clerk will file-stamp your originals and copies, and assign a case number to your petition. If you request a hearing as well, it may be scheduled.
- The clerk will keep the originals for the court's files and give the two copies back to you. One copy is for your records, while the other must be served on the child's mother.
Have the child's mother served.After the petition is filed, you must arrange to have it delivered to the child's mother using the legal "service" process. This process is designed to ensure that you can establish legal proof that the child's mother knows about your petition.
- Typically, you pay a small fee to a sheriff's deputy to have them hand-deliver the documents to the child's mother. You also can use a private process serving company. These professionals specialize in delivering documents to people who are difficult to find or have served.
- After service is complete, a proof of service document must be completed and filed with the court.
- Along with your petition, a blank consent form will be included in the documents served on the child's mother. If the child's mother completes this form indicating that she consents to legitimating the child, you typically won't need a court hearing.
Attend your hearing.If the mother did not complete and sign the consent form, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether to legitimate the child. If you do not attend this hearing, your petition will be denied.
- At the hearing, the judge will ask you questions about the child and your claim of paternity.
- If you previously completed DNA testing, you can introduce the results of that test as evidence.
- The judge also will hear from the child's mother if she is contesting your petition. Keep in mind that you will have the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses, including the child's mother herself, who testify against your petition.
Receive the judge's order.After hearing all the evidence, the judge will decide whether to legitimate the child. The judge also may address other matters, including child support, custody, and visitation.
- While the judge may announce his or her decision immediately following the hearing, you typically will have to wait a few days before the written order is ready.
- If you asked the judge to determine custody, child support, and visitation as part of your petition, these matters may be addressed in the order. Otherwise, you'll have to file additional petitions to have these matters determined.
- Once the order is entered, make sure you get several copies of it. You'll want at least one copy for your records, but you'll also need copies to submit to DCSS or to the vital records office to have the child's birth certificate amended.
Video: Legitimate and Illegitimate Child
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