In short, if you are unsure about the paternity of you purported child, you should definitely obtain a paternity test. Now, let’s talk more about why this is a good idea…
In Georgia, a father may seek to have the relationship between himself and his child by either voluntarily acknowledging paternity or by seeking to legitimate his child via legitimation petition. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-21.1; O.C.G.A. § 19-7-23(a). However, if you are unsure about the paternity of your purported child and you are not married to the mother of that child, it is important that you seek a paternity test prior to legally acknowledging paternity or initiating a legitimation action. This is necessary because in Georgia once you voluntarily acknowledge paternity or succeed in legally establishing paternity, you will only have 60 days in which to amend or withdraw this acknowledgement before the acknowledgement constitutes a legal determination that you are indeed the father of the child. In other words, if you acknowledge paternity of a child, and you later find that you are not the father of that child, you may nevertheless be legally considered the father and it may be very difficult, if not impossible, to rebut this legal determination. See O.C.G.A. § 19-7-46.1(b).
If you would like to have a paternity test in order to determine the true parentage of your purported child, but the child’s mother is uncooperative, you may file a petition to establish paternity in the court of the county where you reside. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-42. Once you have filed this action, you may petition the court for an order requiring the child’s mother to submit to the paternity test. Unless the opposing party shows good cause as to why the motion should be denied, a court will normally grant a motion requesting a paternity test. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-43(d).
If you and the child’s mother are able to agree that a paternity test is necessary, you may seek on privately without filing a paternity action. There are several genetic testing laboratories in Georgia that specialize in provide paternity testing. A basic genetic test for paternity may be obtained from some providers for as low as $79. However, the costs to obtain a genetic test that will produce results admissible in court are greater. It is necessary to obtain this more extensive form of testing if you plan to present the results in court or if you believe that presentation of the results in court may be necessary. The costs associated with obtaining this form of paternity testing range from $230 to $495.
By A. Latrese Martin, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC