It is not unusual these days for a child to be born to unmarried parents. However, in Georgia if the child’s parents are unmarried and no longer in a relationship with one another, and the child’s father wants to seek child custody or visitation, he will have to file a legitimation action.

What is legitimation?

Legitimation is the only means, besides marrying the child’s mother, for the father of a child born to unmarried parents to establish legal rights to the child. Only fathers can file a legitimation action, not mothers.

An order of legitimation from the court establishes a legal relationship between the father and the child. This means the child will be considered an heir of the father, the father will be named on the child’s birth certificate and it is the only way a father of a child born to unmarried parents can seek child custody or visitation.

Legitimation versus paternity

In Georgia, a legitimation action is different from a paternity action. Paternity is the means in which the law establishes the father as the child’s biological parent, making the father responsible for paying child support. However, establishing paternity in Georgia does not make an unmarried father eligible to seek child custody or visitation. Only a legitimation action can do that.

Ultimately, legitimation actions are legal proceedings, and as such, those seeking them may first want to seek legal advice to better understand their rights. Unmarried parents in the Lawrenceville area may want to ensure they both have a meaningful relationship with their child, and for fathers, a legitimation action is a means for achieving this goal.