What should I know about paternity?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Paternity laws in Georgia


What is paternity?

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 is paternity of a child established?

Paternity of a child can be established in the following ways:

  1. The mother and father can sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. This 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 can file a petition in the Superior Court or the State Court.

  3. If the Department of Human Resources wants to establish paternity, the Office of State Administrative Hearings can decide the issue. 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.

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What are my rights to file for paternity?

A 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).

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What are the mother’s rights in a paternity case?

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 lawsuit. If she is not subject to the court's jurisdiction, she must at least be given notice of the petition for paternity.  She must also be given an opportunity to be heard in the court.

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What are parent’s responsibilities in a paternity case?

If you are the parent of a child, you have the responsibility to provide financial support for that child. If the court determines you are the child’s parent in a paternity case, and you are not awarded custody, the court will likely order you to pay child support.

Although paternity is often not established until a child is older, the court may require you to pay past expenses, including:

  • Medical expenses during the mother’s pregnancy;

  • Medical expenses during childbirth;

  • Childcare expenses for the years before paternity was established.

These expenses are generally limited to what the mother can prove she paid and will take into account both parties’ incomes at the time. 

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What rights does the father have?

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

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What is the Putative Father Registry?

The Putative Father Registry has information about any man who may be the biological father of a child. The Registry has the name, address, and Social Security number for two types of men:

  1. A man who says he is the father of a child in a signed writing

  2. A man who registers to state the possibility that he is the father of the child

A man who believes that he is or may be the biological father of a child can file that information with the Putative Father Registry. If a biological father is on the Registry, a court may use it to require him to pay child support. 

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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.

In new child support cases where paternity has not already been established, the Division of Child Support Services is required to do paternity testing. If the man is found to be the biological father, he will pay for the paternity testing fee. If man is not the biological father, the mother who applied for child support will be resonsible for the fee. Mothers who get TANF or Family Medicaid will not have to pay the fee.

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What happens if the results find 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 and he is not awarded custody of the child, the father has a duty to support the child financially. The court's order may also give that the father visitation privileges.

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If I acknowledge paternity on the registry, can I deny it later? 

Signing into the Registry does not count as a "formal" acknowledgement of paternity. That is a separate document. Generally, you can undo your acknowledgment of paternity before a child support or other order is entered that establishes that you are the father of the child. If the mother also signed the Acknowledgment of Paternity, your ability to deny paternity is more limited. In that case, you can have up to 60 days to rescind or 'undo' your acknowledgment of paternity. Within that 60-day period, you can undo your acknowledgment any time unless a court enters an order determining that you are the father. If you discover you are not the child's father after the 60-day period or after a court order, then you should speak to an attorney about filing a court case. When the paternity is being challenged after there has already been an acknowledgement of paternity, the father is still responsible child support obligations.

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Can I update or change my information to the Registry? 

You can always correct or change any of the information you previously provided to the Registry. To make a change, you must mail or fax a letter to:

Putative Father Registry

Vital Records

1680 Phoenix Blvd, Suite 100 

Atlanta, GA 30349

FAX (770) 909-5381

Include your complete name, Social Security number, old information as it was originally entered in the Registry, and the new information as it should be shown in the Registry.

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More info


You may obtain the Putative Father Registry Registration Form online from the Department of Human Resources, Division of Vital Records, in any county Vital Records Registrar's Office, in county Health Departments, in Probate Court offices or at the State Office of Vital Records. Only a putative father may add his information to the Registry and registering is free.

Last Review and Update: Mar 13, 2022
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