If you do not have a court order legitimating the child, the only right the father has is the right to pay the mother child support. It does not matter if the administrative form that you signed at the hospital, or brought to the Office of Vital Records says that it is an “Acknowledgment of Legitimation” because it is only identifies the biological father, and does not make him a legal parent.
Many lay people, (and some lawyers) are confused as to what the legal implications of Georgia Form 3940 are when they read it, because while it clearly states at the top of the form that it is a “Paternity Acknowledgment – State of Georgia”, it goes on down in the fine print to claim that it is an “Acknowledgment of Legitimation.” Making the matter more confusing, it also states that once the form is signed and filed, “the father shall be considered legitimate for all purposes under law pursuant to O.C.G.A. §19-7-21.1.
FOR THE LAY PERSON
The section of the law that the form references gives very limited rights to the father. In fact, the father gets no real rights at all, but is merely being identified for child support collection. The child cannot inherit from you and you cannot claim a right to visit the child. Also, when you die, your child will NOT have the right to inherit any property or money you own. When you unravel the legal jargon that is in the fine print, or is referenced in the fine print, you still need to get a court order to truly be the legal father of the child, with rights to custody and visitation.
FOR THE LAWYER
O.C.G.A. §19-7-21.1 is titled “Voluntary acknowledgment of legitimation” and provides a multi-part definition of how a “legal father” is determined. One way is marriage, four other ways require a specific court order, and the sixth way is “legitimat(ing) a child pursuant to this Code section.”
The way a person uses the sixth method of legitimating pursuant to this Code section is that they establish a prima facie case of paternity under the requirements of O.C.G.A. §19-7-46.1 in a signed document prior to the child’s first birthday. 19-7-21.1 is unclear as to whether this is supposed to be filed with the State Office of Vital Records, but once the form is signed, that office is required by law to provide notice in writing of the alternatives to administrative legitimation. The form states on its reverse side that it is supposed to be filed with that office, and that the form is then considered a vital record, but there is no actual written law determining procedure.
19-7-21.1 explicitly states that this process does not give the father any rights to custody or visitation of the child until a court order is entered.
Furthermore, in a 2014 case, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that an administrative legitimation does not give the child rights to inherit from the father. case In re ESTATE OF HAWKINS, (2014). (If you can figure out why the cite is squirrelly, let me in on the secret.)
Call Roy Yunker Law to make sure that you get things done the right way.