Legitimacy (family law)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Legitimacy, in traditional Western common law, is the status of a child born to parents who are legally married to each other, and of a child conceived before the parents obtain a legal divorce. Conversely, illegitimacy (or bastardy) has been the status of a child born outside marriage, such a child being known as a bastard, love child, or illegitimate when such a distinction has been made from other children. In Scots law, the terminology of natural son or natural daughter has the same implications. The prefix "Fitz-" added to a surname (e.g., FitzRoy) sometimes denoted that the child's parents were not married at the time of birth.

Depending on local legislation, legitimacy can affect a child's rights of inheritance to the putative father's estate and the child's right to bear the father's surname or hereditary title. Illegitimacy has also had consequences for the mother's and child's right to support from the putative father.

The importance of legitimacy has decreased considerably in Western countries with the increasing economic independence of women, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, the fall of totalitarian regimes, and declining influence of Christian churches on family life. Births outside marriage represent the majority in many countries in Western Europe and in former European colonies. In many Western-derived cultures, stigma based on parents' marital status, and use of the word "bastard", are now considered offensive.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Legitimacy (family law)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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