If you are a father who was not married to your child’s mother at the time of his or her birth in Georgia, it is possible that you have no legal rights to your child and that your name does not appear as father on his or her birth certificate. In Georgia, only married couples are the presumed parents of their children. Other fathers such as you must establish paternity.
Per Georgia law, you can establish paternity of your child by one of the following three ways:
- Marry your child’s mother prior to the birth
- Sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form when your child is born or shortly thereafter
- Obtain a court order designating you as your child’s father
Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Program
By law, the hospital where your child is born must give all unwed parents the opportunity to sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment form. If your child is or was born elsewhere, you can obtain a PA form from your local Vital Records Office or from the State Office of Vital Records.
In either event, both you and the child’s mother must sign the form and do so in the presence of a notary public. You must then file the signed, notarized PA form with the State Office of Vital Records. Since you will be working through the Division of Child Support Services, be aware that you, the child’s mother and the child himself or herself must submit to a paternity test to verify that you are the biological father. Total cost for this testing currently is $66 for the three of you.
If the test comes back positive, this establishes you as your child’s father. Your name now will appear on his or her birth certificate, assuming that was not done at the birthing hospital. In addition, the PA form information becomes part of the State Putative Father Registry.
Should either you or the child’s mother wish to rescind the PA form, you must do so within 60 days of signing it. Otherwise it is permanent unless you successfully challenge it on the grounds of duress, fraud or material mistake of fact. Also be aware that cancelling the PA form does not remove your name from your child’s birth certificate if it is already there. You and/or the child’s mother must obtain a court order to do that or to change the child’s surname. This order must instruct the State Office of Vital Records to amend your child’s birth certificate.
If you and your child’s mother did not sign a PA form, your other option is to obtain a paternity order from the court. Again, paternity testing is a requirement.
Parental rights and obligations
As the legal father of your child, you and (s)he have all the legal rights associated therewith. For instance, you have the right to establish and maintain a parent-child relationship with him or her regardless of what, if any, relationship you maintain with his or her mother. You also have the right to obtain his or her medical and school records and pursue custody. Your child can inherit from you and/or receive insurance proceeds, Social Security benefits, etc. from you or your estate.
Along with rights, however, come obligations. As your child’s legal father, you are jointly responsible with his or her mother to financially support and medically insure him or her until at least age 18. This means that if needed, the Division of Child Support Services can force you to pay child support and provide medical insurance for your child.