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In Georgia, a biological father of a child may become the child’s legal father or legitimate the child by filing a petition for 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 his 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.
Although a biological father has the right to petition the court for legitimation, the biological father does not have the absolute right to have his petition granted. Ghrist v. Fricks, 219 Ga.App. 415 (1995). In fact, if the court finds the biological father unfit or finds that it would not be in the child’s best interests to legitimate the child, the court must deny the father’s petition. See Davis v. LaBree, 274 Ga. 5 (2001).
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.”