Paternity and Legitimation Attorneys in Greensboro
Arthur & Kirkman • Attorneys at Law
The elite paternity lawyers and legitimation attorneys at Arthur & Kirkman provide skilled legal representation to individuals concerning issues of paternity and legitimation. Our Greensboro paternity lawyers and legitimation attorneys are well versed in North Carolina law and can assist you in exploring all of your options and help you obtain the best outcome possible.
For a child who is born out of wedlock, there are two ways in which the father-child relationship can be legally established. Each method, vastly different from the other both from the legal procedure involved and well as the legal effects. These two legal processes are called Paternity and Legitimation.
What is Paternity?
Paternity is a legal process to establish the identity of the child’s biological father. The establishment of paternity does not have the same effect as legitimation. Paternity only serves to equalize the rights, duties, and obligations with regard to support and custody of the child between the child’s father and mother.
A civil action to establish paternity for a child born out of wedlock can be brought before a district court by the father, the mother, the child, or the government (in certain circumstances). A civil action to establish paternity must be initiated before the child’s 18th birthday. Unlike a legitimation proceeding, a paternity action may be commenced after the death of the putative father, so long as it is initiated prior to the deadline to present claims against the father estate but also not later than one year after the father’s death. Paternity must be proved by “clear, cogent, and convincing evidence.” If a paternity action is commenced after the child’s third birthday or after the father’s death and paternity is contested, there must be evidence of blood or genetic testing supporting a finding of paternity.
Paternity can also be established through a criminal action against the child’s father for criminal non-support of his child.
What is Legitimation?
The process of Legitimation is about changing the child’s status from an illegitimate child to that of a legitimate child. When the child is a legitimate child, the child is legally recognized as the child of his or her parents and thereby entitled to inherit from his or her mother and father. A child born out of wedlock can achieve legitimate status upon (1) the marriage of the child’s biological parents at any time after the child’s birth or (2) a decree of legitimation through a special proceeding in the Superior Court. Upon legitimation, the child has all the same rights and privileges as his or her parent’s other legitimate children, including the right to inherit from the child’s parents intestate. Once the child has achieved legitimate status, the child’s status as a legitimate child of his parents also imposes upon the father and mother all of the lawful parental privileges and rights, as well as all of the lawful obligations in which parents owe to their legitimate children.
A legitimation proceeding is a ‘special proceeding’ in the superior court. Generally, the Clerk of Superior Court presides over the legitimation proceeding unless there are issues of fact, requests for equitable relief or there are equitable defenses. Unlike an action for paternity, a legitimation proceeding can only be started by the biological father. Also unlike an action for paternity, legitimation proceedings may be started by a biological father even after the child has reached age 18. In a legitimation proceeding, the only question for the Court to consider and determine is whether the man filing the petition is the child’s biological father.
What Does ‘Out of Wedlock’ Mean?
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