While often combined into a single legal action, paternity and legitimation are not the same. Each has different purposes and different effects on a purported father and the child.
Paternity & Paternity Testing
A paternity test establishes who is the biological father of the child. It is usually conducted using a simple DNA test. When the identity of the father is uncertain or upon the purported father request, a paternity test is conducted in connection with establishing child support. Paternity alone does not place the father in a position to seek custody of the child.
Legitimation of a Father’s Legal Rights
Legitimation secures the biological father’s legal rights to a child, including the right to seek custody. A child is considered legitimate if:
- The child is born in wedlock
- The mother marries reputed father and father accepts child as his own
- When the child is conceived in wedlock by artificial insemination and there is a writing
- When father petitions for and court grants legitimation.
Prior to legitimation, the mother holds all parental power over the child. After the court grants legitimation, the father stands on equal ground with the mother in determining physical and legal custody. Additionally, after legitimation the child can inherit from the biological father’s estate and the child’s last name can be changed to recognize the father’s surname.