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Baker v. Lankford, A10A1211

*All courts mentioned are at the state level.

  • Wife gave birth to a son while married to Husband. Husband was listed on the birth certificate and believed he was the child’s biological father.
  • Wife later told Husband that he was not the child’s biological father. Wife then moved out of the marital home. Husband paid child support and filed for divorce.
  • While the divorce was pending, the biological father filed a petition for legitimation, custody, and visitation. Wife consented to the legitimation, but Husband filed a motion to intervene and to dismiss the legitimation proceeding.
  • While Husband’s motion to intervene was pending, the trial court granted the legitimation petition, and then denied Husband’s motion.
  • Husband appealed and contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion to intervene. The Court of Appeals agreed and reversed.
  • The requirements to intervene pursuant to O.C.G.A. 9-11-24 are threefold: interest, impairment resulting from an unfavorable disposition, and inadequate representation.
  • The Court of Appeals explained that Husband clearly had an interest as he was the child’s legal father. A child’s legal father is defined as the man who was married to the child’s biological mother at the time the child was conceived or born, unless such paternity was disproved by a final order.
  • The Georgia Supreme Court (In re White) has made clear that there can be no doubt that a man married to a woman at the time of conception or birth is a party in interest when another man claims fatherhood of the child in a legitimation proceeding.
  • Additionally, the Court of Appeals explained that a man has no absolute right to the grant of his petition to legitimate a child simply because he is the biological father.
  • The Court of Appeals held that Husband’s interest as the child’s legal father would be impaired by a decision of the trial court that was unfavorable to him, and his interest was not adequately represented by the parties to the action.

Attorneys:

Trial Court:

DeKalb Superior Court; Judge Linda Hunter