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Children Born Out of Wedlock – Legitimation and Paternity

FatherSon-200x200There are many reasons why a man might want a child. The joys of fatherhood are plentiful. Children and parents often make memories that last their entire lives. As such, there is no limit to the reasons why a father, or even a mother, might want to make sure that the law recognizes a father-son relationship.

In North Carolina, if a married woman has a child, the state presumes that her husband is the father of the child. However, this is not necessarily so with an unmarried woman. If a child is born out of wedlock, and the woman is unmarried, the child then only has legal connection to her. In that instance, either the father will want the state to recognize the child as his through legitimization, or perhaps, the mother will want the state to recognize the father’s status to the child through a paternity process.


In North Carolina, for children who are born out of wedlock, there is a process called legitimation, which can allow them to have the same rights and privileges as children born in wedlock. The legitimation process, as opposed to the paternity process (discussed below), focuses on the status of the child, not necessarily that of the father.

In order to legitimize a child born in North Carolina, one of two things can happen. First, the father and the mother can marry. After the marriage, the state will automatically consider the child as legitimate.

If for whatever reason, the father and mother do not want to marry, then the second option is to involve the court system. The father will want to file a legitimation petition requesting legitimacy of his child. The father must name both the mother and the child as parties to the action. During the action, the father must convince the court that he is the child’s father. If after reviewing the evidence that the father presents, the court is satisfied and believes it, then the court will grant the petition and will declare the child legitimated. After that, the state will issue a new birth certificate containing both the mother’s and the father’s names. When legitimacy is established, paternity is not an issue.


As already discussed, legitimation is more about the status of the child. Paternity, on the other hand, concerns the status of the father to the child. In other words, is a man the father of the child at issue? However, even if paternity is established, that does not necessarily mean that the state will consider the child as a legitimate one.

Paternity issues usually arise within or are attached to other court proceedings, such as suits for child support. Also, unlike the legitimacy action, anybody can file a paternity action—even the state can file the action if it believes it is necessary. If the court finds paternity, then the rights, duties, and obligations of the father will become the same as if the child was the legitimate child of the father, especially with respect to custody and support of the child.

Your Child, Your Fight, Our Help 

Whether you are interested in establishing the legitimacy of a child to let the state know that the child is yours or you are interested in establishing paternity, so that the father finally helps with the child’s care, you will want to have somebody on your side. Navigating the differences between legitimation and paternity, finding and drafting the proper paperwork, and interacting with the North Carolina court system can become daunting after a while. When it comes to your family, you do not want a daunting process—you want a smooth process. Make sure to call the family law attorneys at Powers Landreth PLLC in Charlotte today to create such a smooth process for you.




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