September 1, 2005
ATLANTA (GA) – During July, 4,250 fathers took advantage of a new law that lets them legtimate a child born out of wedlock at the same time that they acknowledge paternity, eliminating the need to obtain a court order. Legitimation is a legal step that gives children the right to inherit from their father, gain access to medical history on their father’s side, and be placed in a paternal relative’s home if their mother can no longer care for them. It also gives the father the right to petition a court to grant him child custody or visitation rights. Legitimation is now offered at the same time and on the same document as voluntary paternity acknowledgment. Both legitimation and paternity acknowledgement require agreement by both parents. Only 19 couples who acknowledged paternity in July did not take advantage of the streamlined process, meaning that the father will need to obtain a court order to legitimate the child.
"We believe that every child deserves the best, which means emotional as well as financial support from both parents," says Robert Riddle, director of the Georgia Department of Human Resource’s (DHR) Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). "During July we saw that the new law is succeeding in making it easier for fathers to establish their relationship with their children. This will benefit thousands of children in the years to come."
Before the Georgia General Assembly passed a new law that went into effect on July 1 of this year, all parents wishing to legitimate a child had to pay a lawyer and petition a court, which can take months. Now, those parents who established a child’s paternity after July 1st, 2005 can also legitimate that child simply by filling out the same form that establishes paternity, if both parents agree. Fathers who established paternity before July 1st will still have to take a separate court action to legitimate their relationship to the child.
During the last federal fiscal year, 53,000 births were reported to unwed parents in Georgia. Of this number, about 29,000 fathers acknowledged paternity at the birth hospital through a collaboration between OCSE and DHR’s Division of Public Health’s Vital Records unit. Other fathers establish paternity later in their child’s life, as when the courts seek to establish a child support order.
For more information about the legitimation process, see www.legalaid-Ga.org or contact the Georgia Bar Association for a referral to an attorney. In Fulton County contact the Fulton Superior Court’s Family Law Information Center at www.fultonfamilydivision.com and in DeKalb County contact the DeKalb County Superior Court’s Family Law Information Center at www.co.dekalb.ga.us/dekalbflic. For more information about paternity establishment, see ocse.dhr.georgia.gov and click on "Services," then "Paternity Establishment," or contact your local OCSE office.
For information, contact:
Barbara Joye; 404/657-1385