COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A new project in the local judicial system is gaining momentum.
It's for fathers who want to have legal ties to their children and it's a step many dads might not realize they need to take.
Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Gil McBride says the laws on the books in Georgia when it comes to children born out of wedlock have changed very little over the past 800 years.
A baby born to parents that are not married, under the law, belongs to its mother.
"Mere possession of child is not the same thing as having legal custody and decision-making authority for a child. There is a specific legal process to follow for fathers that are interested in doing that," explained McBride.
It's called legitimation. Without it, fathers have no right to custody or visitation with their kids although the laws say they have to support them financially.
The Chattahoochee Circuit has launched the "Legitimation Station"- so single dads know the importance of establishing legal rights to their children and have the resources to start the process.
"We're here to deal with the situations where parents have been unable to work it out on their own and to educate fathers on the need to bring a lawsuit into the courtroom to make this happen and to hopefully smooth the process for them a little bit along the way," Judge McBride added.
For links to forms for filing a petition for legitimation, you can visit www.chattahoocheefamilylawcenter.org.
If you don't have access to the internet, public access terminals have been set up in each of the circuit's six counties: Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor.
In Columbus, the terminal is set up on the 8th floor Law Library and volunteers from the Columbus Bar Association are there on the first and third Fridays of each month from 10 AM- 12 noon to help fathers fill out the forms.
The cost to file is $212, according to Judge McBride.