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Legal Effects of Legitimation

As discussed in our article, “Legitimation”, in Georgia when a child is born to parents who were never married, it is necessary for the father to legitimate the child in order to be legally recognized as the child’s father. In addition to becoming the legally recognized father of his legitimized child, there are several other legal effects of legitimation that any biological father should be aware of prior to petitioning the court legitimation. The legal effects that come along with legitimation are listed below with brief explanations of each.

  • Legally recognized father. Legitimation renders the biological father the legal father of the legitimized child. In Georgia, a legal father refers to a man who: 1) has legally adopted a child, 2) was married to the mother of the child at the time of birth or conception, 3) married the mother of the child after the child was born and recognized the child as his own, 4) has been determined to be the legal father of the child by a paternity order, and 5) has been determined to be the legal father of a child by a final legitimation order.
  • Inheritance. The father and the child will be able to inherit from each other as if the child has been born to parents who were married to each other. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-22(c).
  • Child Support. Upon legitimation, the legal father will be responsible for the support of the child. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-2. Once the legitimation is finalized by the presiding court, the court will also establish the father’s duty for child support according to Georgia’s child support guidelines. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15.
  • Custody and Visitation. In addition to establishing the father’s duty of support, the court upon legitimation may also establish the father’s rights with respect to the child’s custody and the father’s visitation with the child.  Gregg v. Barnes, 203 Ga.App. 549 (1992).
  • Father’s last name. Upon legitimation, the court presiding over the matter may also determine that it is in the child’s best interest to take the father’s last name. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-22(c) and Johnson v. Coggins, 124 Ga. App. 603 (1971).
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