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Legitimacy of a Child

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

326. Legitimacy of a Child

326.1 Why is legitimacy of a child important for Social Security purposes?

A natural legitimate child (i.e., a child born of a valid marriage) has inheritance rights in the parents' intestate personal property under the laws of all States. Under the laws of most States, a child born out of wedlock has the status of "child" for the purposes of sharing the intestate personal property of the natural mother. The child does not have the status of child with regard to the estate of the natural father, unless certain conditions are met.

326.2 How does a State determine a child's legitimacy?

To determine the child's legitimacy, the courts of a State usually look to the law of the State where the parent was living when the child was born. The courts also look to the law of any other State under which the child's status may have been changed. Therefore, even if the State where the parent was living does not recognize the child as legitimate, the child may still be considered legitimate if born in some other State.

326.3 Is a child born during a valid marriage always considered legitimate?

A child conceived or born during a valid marriage is considered legitimate in all States. This presumption may be overcome, however, under certain conditions. In a controversy over a child's legal status, certain States follow the "Lord Mansfield Rule". Under this rule, neither the testimony of the child's mother, nor the testimony of the man who was her husband at the time the child was conceived or born, can disprove the child's legitimacy.

326.4 Are children of void marriages legitimate?

The legitimacy of children of void marriages differs by State. In some States, void marriage statutes provide that children of void marriages are legitimate. In other States, it may be necessary for a court of competent jurisdiction to declare the child legitimate.

Last Revised: Jun. 30, 2004

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