Presumption of Legitimacy Law and Legal Definition

Presumption of legitimacy is a strong legal presumption that the husband of a woman is the father of the child to whom she gives birth. This presumption can be rebutted only if it can be clearly established that the child in question is illegitimate. The presumption of legitimacy can be disputed only by the husband or wife or the descendant of one or both of them. Illegitimacy in such a case may be proved like any other fact.

The presumption of legitimacy is one of the strongest presumptions in the law. The mere fact of birth is sufficient to give rise to the presumption. It is not necessary to prove also that the person was born in wedlock. The presumption of legitimacy places the burden of proof upon those contending for illegitimacy. The presumption of legitimacy is more easily rebuttable where there is no evidence of a marriage.

However, the presumption of legitimacy of child born in wedlock may be wholly removed by proper and sufficient evidence, showing that the husband was:


entirely absent so as to have no intercourse or communication of any kind with the mother;

entirely absent at the period during which the child must, in the course of nature, have been begotten; or

only present under such circumstances as offered clear and satisfactory proof that there was no sexual intercourse.

In re Mays' Estate, 141 Pa. Super. 479 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1940), the court observed that “The presumption of legitimacy is in reality the presumption of the fact and of the validity of the marriage of the child's parents, once parentage is established. The presumption of legitimacy is not to be shaken by a mere balancing of probabilities and the evidence to repel it must be strong, satisfactory, and conclusive.”