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When a married couple conceives a child in North Carolina, the law automatically recognizes the husband as the father.

That’s not the case when the mother is unmarried. The child’s birth certificate may not show any father listed, or may show the name of the man who—at the time of birth—claimed to be the father. However, an acknowledgment of paternity on a birth certificate isn’t the firmest foundation for later life. The man can later repudiate his claim to be the father.

Fortunately, the North Carolina legal system has developed a means to resolve the status of children born out of wedlock. This process, called legitimation, is found in Chapter 49, Article 2 of the North Carolina General Statutes. If the legal procedure is followed precisely, the illegitimate child will forever after be treated as the legitimate child of both biological parents and will share the same rights and privileges as a child born to a married couple.

There are some instances in which a legitimation case need not be brought before the court. As we noted earlier, any boy or girl born to a married couple is automatically considered legitimate offspring of each spouse. If an unmarried couple weds after the birth of their child, the child is likewise considered legitimate without any court proceedings.

The Effects of a Legitimation Proceeding

Legitimation gives the child all the rights and benefits of a child born to married parents. Those include:

  • The right to receive adequate child support from each parent until age 18.
  • The benefit of enjoying parenting time or visitation with both mother and father, regardless of which parent might have physical custody of the child.
  • The right to inherit property from each parent’s estate. This becomes an issue if the biological father dies without writing a will.
  • The ability to file a lawsuit in North Carolina courts for the wrongful death of either parent.

Once the court issues a legitimation decision, the child’s birth certificate will be reissued showing the names of each parent as confirmed by the legal proceeding.

Beginning The Process

It’s important to note that only the biological father of a child can file a petition for legitimation in North Carolina.

Even though a legitimation proceeding is generally straightforward, it’s best to seek the guidance of a trusted Wilmington paternity lawyer at the outset. At the Speaks Law Firm, our family law attorneys regularly help clients complete the necessary paperwork and understand the legal effects from their decisions on such important matters.

To get the advice you need, call us today at 910-341-7570 locally, or toll-free at 877-593-4233. The Speaks Law Firm represents legitimation and family law clients throughout the Wilmington, North Carolina area, including Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Murraysville, Ogden, Myrtle Grove, Delco, and Hampstead.