Establishing Paternity in Georgia: Legal Benefits Beyond Child Support

Establishing Paternity Georgia

Establishing paternity in Georgia is a crucial legal process, often misunderstood as merely a means to obtain child support. However, the implications of paternity establishment extend far beyond financial support, impacting inheritance rights, custodial matters, and social security benefits. This article delves into the multifaceted reasons and benefits of establishing paternity, emphasizing its significance for both biological mothers and fathers in Georgia.

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Inheritance Rights

In Georgia, a child’s right to inherit is significantly influenced by paternity. According to O.C.G.A. § 53-2-3, a child may inherit from their biological mother by default, but inheritance from the biological father is contingent upon legal establishment of paternity. Additionally, for a biological father to inherit from his child, his paternity must be legally recognized. Paternity can be established through various legal means, including a court-ordered legitimation, paternity order, acknowledgment on the birth certificate, or other clear and convincing evidence, as demonstrated in cases like In re Estate of Warren.

Child Support and Custodial Rights

While securing child support is a common reason for establishing paternity in Georgia, it is crucial to note that a paternity order does not automatically confer custody or visitation rights to fathers. Fathers seeking a legally recognized relationship with their children must take additional steps. This includes filing a petition for legitimation or responding with a counterclaim for legitimation in a paternity action, as highlighted in cases like Mabry v. Tadlock and under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-51. Therefore, paternity establishment is merely the initial step in a series of legal actions necessary for fathers to assert their parental rights fully.

Amendments to Birth Certificate

Once paternity is established, Georgia law allows for the amendment of the child’s birth certificate to include the father’s name. This legal recognition, however, does not automatically permit the child to carry the father’s surname. To achieve this change, the father must initiate a legitimation proceeding, as indicated by O.C.G.A. § 19-7-22(c) and in cases like Johnson v. Coggins.

Social Security Benefits

Establishing paternity is also essential for a child to receive social security benefits from a deceased parent. Under federal law (42 U.S.C. § 402(d); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350 (2008)), a child must demonstrate the ability to inherit from the deceased parent as per state intestacy laws, which in Georgia, requires established paternity.

Custodial Rights: A Significant Consideration

An important aspect that biological fathers must understand is that establishing paternity in Georgia does not automatically confer custodial rights. To seek child custody or parenting time, biological fathers must pursue and obtain an order of legitimation. This legal step is vital for fathers who wish to have a formal relationship with their biological children born out of wedlock.


Understanding the reasons and benefits of establishing paternity is vital for both biological mothers and fathers in Georgia. Barrett Partners Group is there for you every step of the way. While the most commonly recognized reason for establishing paternity is securing child support, the implications are far-reaching, affecting inheritance rights, custodial rights, and social security benefits. Parents need to be aware of these factors and seek appropriate legal guidance to navigate the complexities of paternity and legitimation processes effectively.

For more information or assistance, feel free to contact us at Barrett Partners Group, and we will be happy to assist you in navigating these legal waters.