legitimation, act of giving the status of legitimacy to a child whose parents were not married at the time the child was born. This is generally accomplished by the subsequent marriage of the parents. Under the common law, legitimation by this process was not allowed, although that rule came under the displeasure of the church. It was not until 1926 that a statute was passed in England allowing legitimation by subsequent marriage. In the United States, legitimation by subsequent marriage is the general rule. In some states there are, moreover, special judicial proceedings for the legitimation of a child. In other states one or both of the parents may adopt the child. See bastard.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.