As Atlanta divorce attorneys, we often hear one common misnomer repeated over and over again by biological fathers upon being asked whether a legal relationship has been established between them and their biological child:
"Of course! I signed the birth certificate."
As these fathers soon discover, signing the birth certificate is simply not enough to establish a legal relationship between themselves and their biological child. In order for a legal relationship between a biological father and his child to be established, that father must seek to legitimate his child.
Although signing the birth certificate may be viewed as an indicia of paternity, establishing that a father is the biological father of a child is not enough to establish a legal relationship between father and child. According to Georgia law, if a child is born to two parents who are not married, the biological mother is the only parent entitled to custody of the child, unless the father has gone through the steps necessary to legitimate the child. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-25. This is true even if the father has signed the birth certificate or paternity has been established by another means. What this means practically is that even though a father has signed the child's birth certificate, indicating paternity, that father has no legal right to visitation or custody of that child unless and until the father goes through the legal process to legitimate the child.