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Paternity

In Georgia, in instances where the mother and the father were never married, the mother of the child may obtain an order for child support by seeking and obtaining an order establishing the paternity of the child and the father’s child support obligation. See O.C.G.A. §§ 19-7-40 et seq., 19-11-14, and 19-7-49(a). Although a paternity order may establish a father’s duty of support, a paternity order may not award a father visitation rights or any other rights regarding the child unless the biological father has filed a petition for legitimation or has sought legitimation via a counterclaim for legitimation in response to the mother’s paternity action.  Mabry v. Tadlock, 157 Ga. App. 257 (1981) and O.C.G.A. § 19-7-51.

Generally, an action to establish paternity will be filed by the mother of the child, but in Georgia a child’s biological father may also file a petition to establish paternity. O.C.G.A. §§ 19-7-42(a)(2) and 19-7-43(a)(5).  The petition for the determination of paternity must be brought in the county where the father resides and must be served on the opposing party just as with any other petition in a legal matter. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-42. Once a paternity action has been filed and the opposing party has been served with a copy of it, the opposing party has 30 days to respond to the petition by filing an answer. If the answer is not filed within the appropriate time period, the matter will be in default and the court may grant the petitioner the relief that he or she requested. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-47(b). Thus, it is imperative for any parent who is served with a paternity action to respond in a timely manner to the petition, especially if paternity is contested.

In the event paternity is contested, the party seeking the paternity order may support his or her allegations with the following types of evidence: 1) testimony of the mother and/or the father; 2) the testimony of an expert regarding the time of conception; and, 3) the results of a legally admissible genetic or DNA test. See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-47(a), 19-7-46(d) and 19-7-46(b); see also Gresham v. Dept. of Human Resources, 257 Ga. 747 (1988), Jackson v. Jackson, 253 Ga. 576 (1984). In fact, a court may order the parties to undergo a genetic test in cases where paternity is contested. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-43(d).

If paternity is not contested, the mother and father may enter into a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity which will constitute a legal determination of paternity just as if an order of paternity was entered by a court. See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-46.1(b). 

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