Many different legal issues can pop up when unwed couples live together. One of those issues is children. When a child is born during a marriage in Georgia, that child is automatically presumed to be the child of the man who is married to the mother. However, more and more, children are born to unwed mothers. When this happens in Georgia, the process of naming a father is a bit complicated, and will require paternity to be established.
The “Alleged Father”
When a mother is not married, the father’s name will not automatically appear on the birth certificate until paternity has been established. Hence, until paternity has been established according to Georgia law O.C.G.A. §19-7, the father is considered an “alleged father.” To be clear, paternity relates to the biological relation to the child, not legal rights to him or her.
In Georgia, when the parents are unwed, a petition can be brought in the name – and for the benefit of the child – by the child, the mother of the child, any relative whose care the child has been placed, or the alleged father to establish paternity. The Department of Human Services can file a petition for establishing paternity if the mother or any other guardian has applied for public assistance for the child. If the alleged father is indeed the biological father, he will be responsible for reimbursing the Department of Human Services for any costs pertaining to the DNA test.
Why Paternity Should be Established
If the father and the mother are married, in most situations, the father will most likely want to establish his paternity to the child. However, there are other reasons for the establishment of paternity, including:
- To ensure the father’s legal rights,
- To add the name to the child’s birth certificate,
- To protect the father/child relationship,
- To enable access to the father’s medical history,
- To ensure the child’s access to the father’s medical insurance, veteran’s benefits, Social Security, or inheritance.
However, if the Department of Human Services is the entity which brings the paternity petition, the above issues are not determined by the court until the petition is filed by a legal guardian or parent.
What if My Wife has a Child and I am Not the Father?
As we have already said, if you are married, you are going to automatically be the presumed father of any child born during the marriage. If, for some reason, you are not the father, you have the right to challenge automatic paternity with a DNA test. If you signed a Paternity Acknowledgment Form, you have the right to rescind that form, but you have to act quickly. You only have 60 days from the date you signed the form to rescind it.
It is always ideal for a child to be born into a two person family, however, that is not how life is for many children. If you are going to be either a mother or a father, and you are not married to the child’s other parent, it is important that you know your legal rights. This way, the child’s right to support from the father, and the father’s right to be a part of the child’s life are upheld. It is also a good idea to have legal representation if you feel like your rights might be jeopardized.
The experienced family law attorneys at Vayman and Teitelbaum, Attorneys at Law, can guide you through this experience. Contact us today for a consultation on paternity establishment.