In Georgia, legitimation is a legal action filed in Superior court that is the only way, other than by marrying the mother of a child, that the father of a child born in the State of Georgia may establish legal rights to his child. Only the father of a child may file a petition seeking to legitimate his child. Frequently, unmarried fathers seek to be legitimized when their attempts to spend time with their child is thwarted by the mother. As part of a legitimation case, a father can expect regular visitation with his child and to also pay child support.

A Georgia court’s order of legitimation creates a father and child relationship legally between the petitioner and his child. An order of legitimation establishes that the child may inherit from his/her legal father or the father can inherit from their child.

An order of legitimation allows the legal father to be listed on the child’s birth certificate as the father. Many fathers incorrectly believe that merely being listed on the birth certificate at the father legitimates the child. The father must still file a petition with the court to legitimate the child. A court’s order for legitimation is the only way that the father of a child born out of wedlock can be recognized as the legal father of a child and therefore can petition for custody and/or visitation with this child. Custody and child support should be addressed as a part of the legitimation action. It is important to note, if a child has been legitimated and the child’s mother dies, the father will not automatically be granted custody of the child.

A court action for legitimation must be filed in the county where the child resides. However, if there is an adoption pending regarding the child, the petition for legitimation should be filed in the county where the adoption was filed.