In Georgia, a biological father of a child may become the child’s legal father or legitimate the child by two methods: 1) filing a petition for legitimation; or 2) entering into an agreement with the child’s mother, which is known as an acknowledgement of legitimation.
In order to initiate a legitimation action by filing a petition for legitimation, the biological father must generally file the petition in the Superior Court located in the county where the child’s mother resides or in the county where the child’s legal custodian or guardian resides. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-23(a). In this petition for legitimation, the biological father must list the name, gender and age of the child, the name of the child’s mother, and the last name the biological father would like the child to take – if the father desires for the child to take his last name. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-22(b). In a legitimation action, the child’s mother or legal guardian would be the respondent or defendant in the action, and just as with other civil actions, the respondent must be served personally with the petition for legitimation. Id.
Alternatively, a father may legitimate his child by entering into an acknowledgement of legitimation with the child’s mother. An acknowledgement is a legal form stating that the mother and father have freely agreed and consented to the legitimation of the child. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-21.1(a)(1).
It is important for any father who wishes to legitimate his child to do so within a timely manner in order to avoid any possible complications in the legitimation process. For more general information regarding legitimation, see our article entitled: “Legitimation: Generally.”