Mandatory Paternity Testing
Effective July 1, 2015, the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) is required by law to conduct paternity testing in all newly established child support cases in which paternity has not already been established. Paternity establishment by DCSS may be processed through a local Superior Court or through an Administrative Court, depending on the county of your residence. Paternity testing is available in both these processes.
If paternity testing is necessary and the alleged father is found to be the biological father, he will be responsible for reimbursing DCSS for the paternity testing fee. If the alleged father is excluded as the biological father, the biological mother who applied for services will responsible for reimbursing DCSS for the paternity testing fee. The paternity testing fee will not be charged to mothers who are receiving TANF or Family Medicaid, grandparents raising grandchildren, or relative or non-relative third-party custodians. Currently, the cost for paternity testing is $40 per person. For mother, father, and one child, the total cost of paternity testing through DCSS is $120.
Other paternity establishment methods
Establishing paternity for a child in Georgia may be done in one of the following ways:
- The child’s parents are legally married to each other at the time of the child’s birth;
- Unwed parents sign a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment Form at the hospital when the child is born, or later at either at the State Office of Vital Records in Atlanta or the Vital Records Office in the county where the child was born; or
- Court order (divorce decree, separation agreement, or other judicial or administrative order).
How do I establish paternity for my child?
Additionally, if unwed parents have established paternity through the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Program, the DCSS can take action(s) to obtain and/or enforce a child support order (i.e. monetary child support and/or health insurance) for you if you apply for services.
Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Program
The Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement Program was established by federal law in 1988. Federal laws relating to this program have been updated several times since 1988 to ensure an easy process is in place to assist unwed parents in establishing paternity for their child.
What does it mean to legitimate my child?
Child Support Services and its child visitation providers do not offer legal services related to visitation. Legal services related to visitation include legitimation and the establishment of visitation orders. Legal help must be obtained from other resources. For those who want to consider filing an action in court on their own, below is a list of resources by county. These sites have forms, instructions, and information about legitimation and visitation.
- Cobb County
The Cobb County Superior Court Family Law Workshop is available to any Cobb resident or person with a family law issue related to Cobb County can visit the center at 30 Waddell Street, Marietta, GA 30090. They offer a free workshop that provides answers to basic questions about divorce, paternity/legitimation, contempt, and modification cases. You may call (770) 528-8100.
- Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot, and Taylor Counties
The Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit has a self-help website for citizens in Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot, and Taylor Counties. Legitimation is a service provided by the Chattahoochee Family Law Center. It’s staffed on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Fridays of each month from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00. The legitimation process is covered in detail and attorneys are available to assist with completing the petition. There are also computers available at each county courthouse to access the website.
- DeKalb County
The DeKalb County Superior Court's Family Law Information Center is available to any DeKalb resident or person with a family law issue related to DeKalb County can visit the center at its location at 120 West Trinity Place, Decatur, Ga. 30030. Brief, legal consultations with an attorney are available for $10 by calling and making an appointment.You may call (404) 687-3990.
- Dougherty County
The Dougherty County Superior Court Law Library is available to any Dougherty resident or person with a family law issue related to Dougherty County can visit the center at its location at 225 Pine Avenue, Room 212, Albany, GA 31702. The library manager, who is an attorney, is available to provide assistance with conducting research, finding appropriate materials and possible legal resources, suggesting self-help resources, and answering legal reference questions in person or by e-mail. However, the library manager is not permitted to give legal advice or interpret specific legal situations. You may call (229) 431-2133.
- Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens Counties
The Appalachian Family Law Information Center serving Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens counties are available to any Fannin, Gilmer or Pickens resident or person with a family law issue related to these counties can visit the center at its location at 1 Broad Street, Suite 102 A, Ellijay, GA 30540. Brief, legal consultations with an attorney are available by appointment for income-qualified individuals. You may call (706) 299-1444.
- Fulton County
The Fulton County Superior Court Family Division's Family Law Information Center is available to any resident of the State of Georgia can visit the center in person at its location. The address is 185 Central Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30303. One can receive a free, brief legal consultation with an attorney by calling and making an appointment. However, a non-custodial parent must follow the guidelines of the county with legal jurisdiction over his/her particular legal issues. You may call (404) 612-2789.
- Hall and Dawson Counties
The Hall and Dawson County Superior Court Family Law Information Center is available to any Hall or Dawson resident or person with a family law issue related to Hall or Dawson Counties can visit the center at its location at 225 Green Street, S.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. Brief, legal consultations with an attorney are available at no cost in Dawson County. However, a financial qualification is required for attorney consultations in Hall County. You may call (770) 531-2463.
- Legal Information and Services
The Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Georgia Legal Services Program and the Pro Bono Project of the State Bar of Georgia is available to all residents of Georgia. It is a guide to free legal information and services including the topics of legitimation, visitation, and custody.
- Addresses for Superior Court Clerks
A list of the Georgia Superior Court Clerks for every county is on this website: www.gsccca.org. Phone numbers and addresses for each clerk are provided.
How does the paternity acknowledgement process work?
Unwed parents are given the opportunity to sign a Paternity Acknowledgement (PA) form at or near the time of a child’s birth. The PA form, when properly completed, helps establish the father and child relationship when the biological father is not married to the mother. It creates certain legal responsibilities for the mother and father.
Unwed parents are provided an opportunity to sign a PA form in the hospital when their child is born. After leaving the hospital, parents may complete the form at any Vital Records office. The PA, once completed and signed in the presence of a Notary, will be forwarded to the State Office Vital Records where it will be entered into the State Putative Father Registry.
By signing this document, the parents are establishing the right of the child to certain benefits including:
- Two parents with whom the child can establish an emotional bond
- Two parents who will share a legal responsibility to financially support the child
- Two parents whose names will appear on the birth certificate
- The ability to receive social security and other benefits from the father, if needed
Parental Rights & Responsibilities
There are certain rights and responsibilities associated with signing the PA form:
- Signing the form is strictly voluntary
- One should not sign the PA unless he is confident he is the biological father
- By signing the PA, it will be presumed by law that he is the father of the child and the child's birth certificate will be issued to reflect this fact
- By signing the PA, the father has the right to a notice of an adoption proceeding or a proceeding to terminate the rights of a biological father who is not the legal father
- By signing the PA, the father is accepting the responsibility to provide future child support and medical insurance until the child is 18 years of age, or beyond in some cases
- After signing the PA, either the mother or the father may cancel the acknowledgement within 60 days of the date of the signature on the PA form or up to the date of an order establishing paternity, whichever occurs first. However, a court order is required to remove the father’s name from the birth certificate
- If the PA isn’t canceled within 60 days of the signature on the PA form it becomes a legal determination of paternity and can only be challenged in court
If both parents do not sign the PA before leaving the hospital or birthing facility, only the mother's name and the child's name will be entered on the birth certificate.
The PA may be signed at a later date at which time the certificate of birth will be amended to enter the name of the father.
The PA may be completed and signed at any local Vital Records office. For information on how to rescind (cancel) a signed PA form, contact your local county Vital Records Office. The PA, once completed and signed in the presence of a Notary, will be forwarded to the State Office of Vital Records where it will be entered into the State Putative Father Registry.
Canceling the PA Form
If a decision is made to cancel the Paternity Acknowledgement within the 60 days allowed by law, the rescission will not cause or allow an amendment to the birth certificate. To have the father's name removed from the birth certificate or to make changes to the child's surname, you will need a certified copy of a court order directing Vital Records to amend the birth certificate. The court order must specifically state the name to be removed from the birth certificate (if someone other than the father is listed as the child’s father on the certificate OR if “unknown” is listed) AND the name of the person to be entered as the father on the certificate [O.C.G.A. §31-10-23(c)(2)].
After the 60 day rescission period has ended, the signed PA will constitute a legal determination of paternity and may be challenged in a court of law only on the basis of fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact, with the burden of proof on the person challenging the acknowledgment.
Any legal responsibilities, including child support obligations, arising from the PA may not be suspended during the challenge, except for good cause shown.