Paternity / Legitimation

A child born out of wedlock is a vital concern to the court and to the parents such that several statutorily schemes have been developed to protect the child and provide certain rights to the mother as well as the putative (biological) father. The mother to the child, the child, the Department of Human Resources, a third party who is caring for the child or even the father can bring a paternity suit to establish the paternity of the child, and once the determination is made, the father can be ordered to pay child support, even retroactively, as well as medical expenses of the child and mother while giving birth. Even after the parentage has been established, the father is still not entitled to visitation or custody of the child unless he seeks to legitimate the child, generally not available in a paternity action unless he files to legitimate in that action. It can be seen, therefore, that prior to his legitimation action, he has no legal rights to the child or to visit with the child. In a paternity action, the court may order genetic testing, which has become very precise. The naming of the father on the child’s birth certificate, which must be by consent of both parties, or executing an acknowledgment of legitimation does not provide any further rights to the father.

It is in the petition to legitimate that the putative father will gain parental rights commensurate with those of a father who is married to the mother, or marries the mother after the child is born, including the rights of inheritance. In his petition, the father must still prove he has not abandoned his opportunity interest to have a relationship with the child, and that it is in the best interest of the child that he be declared the father for all purposes. Once again, genetic testing may be ordered.

A further concern surrounding the rights of the father is the potential for losing his parental rights, many times sought in an adoption proceeding. Once a petition to terminate his parental rights is filed, the father must file to legitimate or his rights will be terminated. The issue of the father’s taking an interest in developing a relationship with the child is paramount, as well as filing in the putative father registry. The rights of a putative father should be asserted at the earliest opportunity, and many fathers will delay taking action while the mother is authorizing some contact between the father and child. It is when the mother denies this time altogether that the father surely should take action if he wants to be a part of his child’s life, even if he is otherwise financially supporting the child. Only after seeking to enforce his parentage will he have extensive rights with the mother.

Client Reviews
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The emotionally charged issues that arise in divorce cases evoke very different responses from judges who see many such cases than from parties who are embroiled in them. To be truly effective, a family law attorney must understand both perspectives--and the written law as well. Rob Wellon has a deep understanding of all of those things. As a consequence, he is a wise counselor and an effective advocate. He is a true leader of the family law bar. A Quote from Chris
★★★★★
Rob was highly recommended to me from a family friend as I was contemplating divorce after a long and difficult marriage. This was unfamiliar territory for me from the start; however, his paralegals and office staff were welcoming and professional from the beginning until the end. I had been looking for a lawyer with integrity, honesty and sound knowledge of the divorce laws as we were up against a difficult opposing party. At our initial meeting, Rob was fine with me bringing in a close confidante to listen. I found with every meeting and phone conversation that Rob remained confidently humble about his legal knowledge and stayed collected even when I was not. He stayed the course the whole way even though it seemed the end would never arrive, often having to remind me calmly that he had “been down this road before.” After staying up all night preparing my case for court, Rob was a tough but fair negotiator. He was able to protect my assets 100% and persuade the judge to award me legal fees. I’m forever grateful. Sally
★★★★★
Rob Wellon represents his clients aggressively but he is also the voice of reason. His years of experience as a family lawyer are undeniable when representing his clients. I would enthusiastically refer him to any person who sought an expert in this field. Marian
★★★★★
Attorney Robert Wellon gave me a first-rate performance when it came to my divorce. From the first meeting and throughout my divorce he was a warm and kind gentleman. He asked me what outcome I wanted from the divorce and from that moment going forward I only had to relax and let him litigate my case. He offered me such conformality and tranquility during a time of uncertainty. He has outstanding strategic capabilities, ensuring a successful outcome. He’s a highly respected lawyer locally and national community. He’s a very efficient lawyer that performs well and fights for those that can’t and gets through with a win. Atty. Robert Wellon is also a family man, a civic leader, sings at the church choir and a professor at Emory University Law School. All of these components make him an outstanding attorney in the field of family law. Vivian