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Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity in Georgia

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently heard a case regarding the implications of a signed voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. Venable v. Parker, A10A1617 (2011). In that case, shortly after the child was born, the parties signed a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity stating that Parker was the biological father. In accordance with Georgia law, the acknowledgment “expressly stated that Parker could rescind his acknowledgment within 60 days of his signature on the form, or up to the date of an order establishing paternity, whichever occurred first.” Id. at2; OCGA §19-7-46.1(b). If he did not rescind within this time period, the acknowledgement would “constitute a legal determination of paternity” and Parker would “have given up [his]rights to DNA testing.” Id. at 2. Parker did not seek rescission and the trial court signed a Final Order incorporating the terms of the parties’ settlement on paternity and child support. Id. at 3.

Shortly thereafter, Parker moved to set aside the paternity acknowledgment and Final Order based upon fraud, alleging that he had recently learned that he may not be the child’s biological father. Id. at 4. Following a hearing in which Parker’s testimony was contradictory, the trial court denied Parker’s motion, but held that it would be in the best interests of the child to require the parties to undergo genetic testing. Id. at 5-6.

Venable appealed, arguing that “the trial court lacked authority to order genetic testing” since the motion to set aside the paternity acknowledgment was denied. Id. at 6. The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed, holding that “[u]nder Georgia law, genetic testing can only be ordered in cases ‘in which the paternity of a child or children has not been established.’” Id.;OCGA §19-7-43(d). In this case, the Final Order, which legally established paternity based upon the paternity acknowledgment, was not appealed nor modified. Id. at 7. Thus,paternity had already been established, and genetic testing was not authorized.

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