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Often unwed parents recall signing a form at the hospital after the birth of their child called a Paternity Acknowledgment Form. These unwed parents often question the purpose of the form and what rights, if any, it provides to the unwed father. The Paternity Acknowledgment, or PA, is a means for unwed parents to voluntarily establish paternity and legitimation. It is divided into two portions. The top portion establishes paternity. Paternity is simply the legal identification of a child’s father. The establishment of paternity is not legitimation and, as a result, it does not provide the father with custodial or visitation rights. However, the establishment of paternity does enable a court to enforce the father’s duty to financially support the child. It also entitles the father to notification in the event the child is placed for adoption or termination of the father’s parental rights is sought. Unwed parents can use the PA to establish paternity for their child at any time without limitation.

The bottom section of the PA should be completed if the unwed parents not only want to establish paternity, but also wish to legitimate their child. In Georgia, legitimation goes beyond paternity in establishing the legal parentage of a child. For example, it enables the child to inherit from the unwed father and the unwed father the right to inherit from the child. Most importantly, it allows the unwed father to petition the court for custody and visitation. A father cannot petition a court for custody and visitation rights unless the child has been legitimated. As is the case with the paternity section (the top section) of the PA, the completion of the legitimation section (the bottom section) of the PA alone does not provide the unwed father with custodial or visitation rights. Further, although there is no time limit for the execution of the paternity portion (the top section), there is a time limit for the legitimation section (the bottom section) of the PA. The legitimation section of the PA must be executed and submitted to the State Office of Vital Records before the child’s first birthday.

The PA must be signed by both parents in the presence of a witness, who also signs the form, if the PA is signed at the hospital after the child’s birth, at the local vital records office in the county where the child is born or at the State Vital Records Office in Atlanta. If not signed at the hospital or the vital records office, the PA must be signed by both parents and witnessed by a notary, who must also affix their seal to the document. It must then be submitted to the State Vital Records Office where it will be entered into the State Putative Father Registry.

For additional information regarding the Paternity Acknowledgment Form, the establishment of paternity and legitimation, and/or the process of obtaining custodial and visitation rights, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Faucette Law Firm at (770) 485-6620.