Legitimacy law in England and Wales

Legitimacy law in England and Wales is governed by the pertinent legislation (Legitimacy Act 1926, Legitimacy Act 1959, Family Law Reform Act 1987) and by case law.


Section 2 of the Legitimacy Act 1976 provides as follows:

Subject to the following provisions of this Act, where the parents of an illegitimate person marry one another, the marriage shall, if the father of the illegitimate person is at the date of marriage domiciled in England and Wales, render that person, if living, legitimate from the date of the marriage.

Extract from Hershman McFarlane Section A.5


The child's father is in the same position as the mother if he was married to the child's mother at the time of the child's birth,[1] in that he also has parental responsibility for his child.

Where the child's parents were not married at the time of the child's birth, the child's father will still have parental responsibility for his child if the child is legitimated by statute.[2] The father will acquire parental responsibility by virtue of the legitimation. FLRA 1987 sets out the circumstances where the child's parents are treated in law as having been married at the time of the child's birth, even though they were not.[3]

Application to the succession to the British throneEdit

While children who are born to parents who are unmarried at the time of birth but subsequently marry are thereby made legitimate, this does not apply to the succession to the British throne. The Legitimacy Act 1926, s 10(1) says, "Nothing in this Act shall affect the Succession to any dignity or title of honour or render any person capable of succeeding to or transmitting a right to succeed to any such dignity or title." The Legitimacy Act 1959, s 6(4) says, "It is hereby declared that nothing in this Act affects the Succession to the Throne."


  1. ^ CA 1989, s 2(1).
  2. ^ FLRA 1987, s 1(2).
  3. ^ FLRA 1987, s 1(3); see also [103].

See alsoEdit