Legitimation is the statutory legal process through which a biological father becomes a legal father of a child born out of wedlock. Before a child born out of wedlock is properly legitimated by the biological father, the mother is entitled to custody and exercises all parental power over the child. Accordingly, the filing of a legitimation action is typically the starting point for a biological father who wishes to have a court order establishing visitation rights.
Notably, only a biological father, and not a stepparent or other parental figure, may bring a legitimation action. Importantly, a biological father has no absolute right to the grant of his petition to legitimate the child, and two standards may apply to evaluate whether legitimation is appropriate. Those standards are the test of the putative father’s fitness as a parent and the best interest of the child test.
These doctrines may be applied differently depending on whether the legitimation proceeding is brought in response to an adoption petition or a custody proceeding between the legally declared father and the putative biological father. The trial court considers the desires and contentions of the parents in addition to the best interest of the child, which requires consideration of the benefits to the child if legitimated, as well as the legal consequences. Legitimation actions may involve establishment of visitation, parenting time, custody, and child support, among other issues.
If you need help establishing child legitimation, contact the experienced lawyers at Thompson, Meier & King at our main location in downtown Canton in the heart of Cherokee County or in our satellite office in downtown Blue Ridge in north Georgia.