Paternity Law Regarding Baby's Surname in Georgia

By Teo Spengler - Updated July 26, 2018
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If you are looking for easy money, bet a friend that he can't guess the baby last name laws in Georgia. The laws are surprisingly complex, with different provisions (and different results) depending on whether the parents are married, unmarried with a paternity acknowledgement or unmarried without a paternity acknowledgement.

Baby Last Name Laws in Georgia

Georgia laws, like those of many states, presume that a baby born to a married woman is the child of the woman's husband. You might think that Georgia would also require that the husband's surname be used for the baby on the birth certificate, but this is not the case. In Georgia, if the mother of the baby is married, she gets to select the first, middle and last names for the child.

However, if the mother is unmarried, the options for the last name of the baby depend on whether paternity has been acknowledged by the baby's father. If the father has completed an acknowledgement of paternity form, the parents of the baby can select any first, middle and last name they desire for the child. The last name need not be his no hers, but can be either. It can also be a hyphenated name or just a last name they happen to like.

What about an out-of-wedlock birth where no paternity acknowledgment is completed? This is the only circumstance where the state of Georgia mandates the child's last name. Under Georgia law, the baby's last name on the birth certificate must be the mother's last name.

GA Paternity Laws and Baby Names

If an unwed father wishes to have parental rights in Georgia, he must go to court. He cannot acquire rights to see his child and be a part of his child's life without a court order. According to Georgia law, the father must file a petition in superior court in the county where the mother of his child lives seeking parental rights and a determination of paternity (usually done by DNA testing in Georgia). At the same time, the father can ask the court to change the child's last name from the mother's name, mandated under Georgia law, to his own last name.

The petition doesn't have to be very complicated. It only has to include the name, age and sex of the child, the mother's name and the name the father wishes the child to have. The Georgia court will review the evidence presented by both parties. Assuming that the paternity test proves that the man is the baby's father, the court will enter an order stating that the father’s relationship with the child is legitimate. The court can also order that the child's name be changed if it finds that to be in the baby's best interests.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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