Legitimation Law and Legal Definition

Legitimation is the act of making something lawful. It can also refer to the act or process of authoritatively declaring a person legitimate, especially a child whose parentage has been unclear. A child born outside marriage is illegitimate. Subsequent marriage of the parents can make the child legitimate. Under the common law, legitimation by this process was not allowed, although that rule came under the displeasure of the church. Later statute was passed in England allowing legitimation by subsequent marriage. In the United States, legitimation by subsequent marriage is the general rule. Some states have special judicial proceedings for the legitimation of a child. In other states one or both of the parents may adopt the child.

Example of a State Statute (North Carolina) On Legitimation

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 49-10 . Legitimation

The putative father of any child born out of wedlock, whether such father resides in North Carolina or not, may apply by a verified written petition, filed in a special proceeding in the superior court of the county in which the putative father resides or in the superior court of the county in which the child resides, praying that such child be declared legitimate. The mother, if living, and the child shall be necessary parties to the proceeding, and the full names of the father, mother and the child shall be set out in the petition. A certified copy of a certificate of birth of the child shall be attached to the petition. If it appears to the court that the petitioner is the father of the child, the court may thereupon declare and pronounce the child legitimated; and the full names of the father, mother and the child shall be set out in the court order decreeing legitimation of the child. The clerk of the court shall record the order in the record of orders and decrees and it shall be cross-indexed under the name of the father as plaintiff or petitioner on the plaintiff's side of the cross-index, and under the name of the mother, and the child as defendants or respondents on the defendants' side of the cross-index.