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Establishing Paternity in Georgia

  • As of July 1, 2015, the division of child support services, or the DCSS, is required to conduct paternity tests for all newly established child support cases in which the paternity is not already an established fact. The paternity that the DCSS establishes may either be processed by a local superior court or by an administrative tribunal. Paternity testing is available from either, and which the establishment goes through depends on your county.

    Should the paternity test be necessary and the man who is allegedly the father is proven to be so, he will be held responsible for the reimbursing for the paternity test fees. If the alleged father is found to not be the biological father of the child, the mother of the child will be required to pay the DCSS fees. A mother who is receiving the benefits of either TANF or Family Medicaid will not have to pay the charge. Also, grandparents who are raising grandchildren and other third party custodians will not be charged with the fee. A paternity test currently costs $29.65 for one person, so a family of three will have a total cost of $88.95.

    Methods to Establish Paternity

    There are a few procedures that can be used to determine paternity in Georgia. They are:

    • The child’s mother and father are married at the time of the child’s birth
    • The parents of the child sign a voluntary paternity acknowledgment form, either at the hospital after the child’s birth or at a later time
    • A court order, such as a divorce decree or a separation agreement

    Additionally, the DCSS will take action to obtain other services for unwed parents who voluntarily established paternity with a voluntary paternity acknowledgment form. Since the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Program was created in 1980, it has ensured that there many options for unwed parents who wish to legitimate their child.

    What does it mean to legitimate a child?

    A father who has established his paternity for a child but has not shown any legal rights to the child is unable to pursue and issues in custody or visitations. Also, a child who is not legitimate may not be able to collect their father’s insurances, benefits, or inherit their father’s estate.

    How does the paternity acknowledgment system work?

    When a child is born, the unwed parents have the opportunity to sign a form for paternity acknowledgment. The form helps connect the child’s relationship with the father if he is not married to the child’s mother. It gives specific legal responsibilities to the mother, father, and child. The parents may sign the form at the hospital after the baby is born, or at any time as long as they turn the form into an office of vital records. A notary public must witness the parents signature. When the parents sign the document, they are establishing that the child has the right to certain benefits such as:

    • Two parents that the child can form an emotional bond with,
    • Two parents who have agreed to support the child financially
    • Two parent’s names on their birth certificate
    • The ability to get social security and other benefits from their father

    It is important to note that signing the acknowledgment is voluntary, and should not be done by the father unless they are confident that the child is theirs.

    The rights and responsibilities of the parents

    Signing the paternity acknowledgment form brings about certain responsibilities for the parents. By signing the paternity acknowledgment form.”

    • The father is presumed to be biological, and the child’s birth certificate will reflect that fact
    • The father has the right to receive a notification before any proceedings occur for the child to be adopted or for the termination of their legal parent status
    • The father is accepting their financial responsibility for the child and is agreeing to pay child support and medical insurance until the child becomes eighteen years old. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a father may be expected to continue their financial responsibility beyond the age of eighteen.

    Once the paternity acknowledgment has been submitted, either parent can cancel it within sixty days of the date of the signature, or the time of an established paternity. If the acknowledgment goes sixty days without being canceled, it will become the legal basis for paternity. The only way to contest the document after it becomes the legal basis is on the basis of fraud, material mistake of fact, or duress.

    If the parents do not sign the acknowledgment, then only the mother and child’s name will appear on the child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate will receive an amendment with the father’s name after the completion of the paternity acknowledgment.

    If you are having a difficult time proving paternity you may need an experienced family law attorney in Alpharetta to help you.