Georgia

Paternity - Establishing Fathers' Responsibilities

Authored By: Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc LSC Funded

Information

PATERNITY - FATHERS' RESPONSIBILITIES

Sheila Chrzan
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Last Revised: July 2004

What does "paternity" mean?

Paternity is a legal word for "fatherhood". When you establish paternity, this means that you have gone through a legal process to identify a man as the biological father of a child.

How may the paternity of a child be established?

Paternity of child can be established in the following ways:

(1) The mother and father can sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. This acknowledgment form is recorded in the putative father registry maintained by the Department of Human Resources.

(2) The mother or the father or any other person allowed by law to start a paternity action may file a petition in the Superior Court or the State Court to establish paternity.

OR

(3) If the Department of Human Resources seeks to establish paternity of a child, the Office of State Administrative Hearings has the authority to decide the issue of paternity. However, the man who has been identified as the putative father can deny that he is the father of the child and demand a trial in the Superior Court.

Who can start an action to establish paternity?

An legal action to establish paternity of a minor can be brought by the child, the mother of the child, a person who is alleged to be the father, any relative taking care of the child, and, in certain circumstances, the Department of Human Resources (in the name of and for the benefit of the child).

Does the mother of the child have to be a party to the legal action and does she have to be notified?

If the mother is subject to the jurisdiction of the court where the petition for paternity has been filed, she must be a party to the law suit. If she is not subject to the court's jurisdiction, she must at least be given notice of the petition for paternity and she must be given an opportunity to be heard in the court.

After paternity is established, does the father have any rights to the child?

Under Georgia law, the birth mother is the only person entitled to custody of a child born out of wedlock, unless the father has gone through the process of legitimating the child. In a paternity action if the court finds that a man is the father of a child, the court can also order that the man have visitation rights with the child (if the court finds that visitation would be in the best interests of the child).

If the father's name is on the birth certificate, does he have any rights to the child?

Under Georgia law, the birth mother is the only person entitled to custody of a child born out of wedlock, unless the father has gone through the process of legitimating the child. This is the case even if the father's name is on the birth certificate. The father must go through legitimation to have rights to a child born out of wedlock.

Does it matter if the father's name or social security number is on the child's birth certificate?

If a man's name or social security number is on the child's birth certificate and someone files a petition to establish paternity, the burden of proof is on the man to prove that he is not the father.

If the birth certificate of the child does not contain any information about the father, the person or agency that filed the paternity action must prove that the man is the father.

Can DNA testing be used to prove or disprove paternity?

Any party to the action may make a motion for the court to order DNA testing. The court must grant the motion unless someone shows that there is good cause not to order DNA testing. The person who requests the testing is responsible for any costs of the testing.

What is the result of a finding that the man is the father of the child in a paternity case?

If the court finds that a man is the father of a child, the father has a duty to support the child financially. This means that the man must pay child support. The court's order may also provide that the father has the right to visit with the child (visitation privileges) if the court finds that visitation would be in the best interests of the child.

Sheila Chrzan
Atlanta Legal Aid Society
Last Revised: July 2004