When a child is born, the law recognizes that the mother of the child is the parent. There is also a presumption that if the mother is married, the spouse is the father of the child born. However, if the mother and father are not married at the time of the child’s birth, then the law only recognizes the father if paternity is legally established. Paternity for a child in Georgia can still be established in two ways: a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form or through a court order.
Unwed parents can sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form at the hospital when the child is born, or later at either the State Office of Vital Records in Atlanta or the Vital Records Office in the county in which the child was born. This is a basic form that simply acknowledges that both parents agree that the biological father is also the child’s legal father. Both parents must sign and the parents’ signatures must be witnessed by a notary public. The other requirements for the paternity acknowledgment form are that the mother gave birth in Georgia and that the father is the biological parent.
If both parents do not sign, then only the mother’s name will be listed on the child’s birth certificate. Therefore, if it is important that the father’s name be included, this form must be signed at the hospital or later.
The Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Program was established by Federal Law in 1988. Laws relating to this Program have been updated periodically since its inception to ensure an easy process is in place to assist unwed parents in legitimizing and establishing paternity for their child. Once the Acknowledgment of Paternity form is completed, it is filed with the Putative Father Registry of Georgia’s Department of Public Health. This Registry is important because it ensures that a biological father is notified if another person wants to adopt his child.
It is also important to establish paternity because it gives the child the same benefits and rights as children born to parents who are married at the time of birth. These rights include:
- Legal proof of both the father’s and mother’s identities;
- Family medical history information, in the case of inherited health issues;
- The father’s name on the child’s birth certificate;
- The ability to receive social security and other benefits from the father, if needed;
- Life or medical insurance form either parent, if the parent has insurance; and
- Two parents who share a legal responsibility to financially support the child
The acknowledgment of Paternity does not establish custody rights or visitation for the father, simply that the father is the biological parent of the child. If the father wishes to obtain custody and visitation rights to the child, then he must sign the “Legitimation” section on the paternity acknowledgment form.
If you are the father of an unborn child or child already born and need to establish paternity, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our experienced team can work with you to discuss this process and ensure that your rights in relationship to your child are met.