Meet Kate and Nate. They are graduating from high school in May and they’ve been dating since sophomore year when they were in the same biology class. They both plan to attend a local community college next year and live with their parents until they can save enough money to transfer to Georgia State. Kate took a pregnancy test last week and she found out she’s pregnant. Both Kate and Nate are excited, but worried about the future.
Over the next nine months, their relationship stays relatively strong considering the pressures of having a child. They make a decision not to marry because they do not believe they are ready for that commitment. Nate goes to all the pre-natal appointments with Kate and, when the big day arrives, he is at the hospital for Tate’s birth.
As an attorney, one of the things we are trained to do is think through all the possible scenarios, both good and bad, that can flow from any act. So in today’s post, we begin our saga involving Kate and Nate. Kate and Nate are fictional characters based loosely on our previous experiences in legitimation and paternity cases and from articles in the media. Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice and, although you may believe that your case has many of the same facts as Nate and Kate’s story, you should consult an attorney because all cases are very fact specific.
At the Hospital
While at the hospital, the staff brings by some documents for the new parents to sign. One document has the title of “Paternity Acknowledgement” and at the bottom there is a section called “Acknowledgment of Legitimation”. Should Kate and Nate sign this document?
Let’s take this document one section at a time. The Paternity section establishes that Nate is the biological father. Because Kate and Nate were not married when they conceived the child nor were they married when Tate was born, Nate is only the biological father and not the legal father. If Nate thinks that Kate may have been untrue, he should not sign. Or if Kate knows that she had relations with another man during the time she conceived Tate, she should be truthful with Nate and consider having both Nate and Tate take a DNA test to establish paternity.
The Legitimation section creates a legal bond between the father and the child. They can inherit from one another, Tate can receive Social Security benefits from Nate’s account should Nate pass away, and they are entitled to other legal rights. Women who are currently in an abusive relationship with the father of the child should seriously consider not signing this document until they have consulted with an attorney. A child can be legitimated with this same form within one year of the child’s birth or by court order at a later time. The days after birth are very emotional and some people may not be suited to making life long decisions at this time. Legitimation does not grant the father any type of custodial rights or visitation with the child, but it is the first step in establishing those rights.
Nate and Kate decide not to sign the Paternity Section or the Legitimation Section. Nate’s friends have told him that they think that Kate was unfaithful. Although he doesn’t believe she was unfaithful, he tells Kate what his friends think. Kate is very hurt and knows that she will feel better once the paternity test is complete.
Kate returns home with Tate to live with her parents. Nate visits almost every day during the first few weeks. After a month, he starts a new job in the neighboring town and cannot come see Tate every day. But he is faithfully coming by every Saturday to spend a few hours with his son. Kate teaches Nate how to feed Tate and how to change his diaper and after a few months, Nate takes Tate every other weekend overnight. Nate does not make a lot of money and he is helping out his parents with their expenses. He gives Kate fifty bucks cash every week for diapers and other baby needs. Nine months go by and it is pretty clear that Tate looks like Nate, so everyone forgets about the paternity test.
Visit us next week as we explore the misadventures of these new parents.
Note: Torriente Marum, LLC is a Georgia corporporation and the attorneys in this office are only licensed to practice law in Georgia.