Legitimacy in Private International Law

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By Soumik Chakraborty

Editor’s Note: With the increasing transnational movement of the population and the growing concept of global citizenship, the issue relating to legitimacy, legitimation, and adoption has become nothing less than more complex. The author makes a comparative critical analysis of this issue.


The branch of Indian law, in contradistinction to the ordinary local or domestic law of India, which is concerned with cases having a “foreign element‟, is known as the conflict of laws or private international law. And foreign element means contact with some system of law other than the Indian law.[i]

Conflict of Laws is not a law governing relations between independent States rather is simply a branch of the civil law of the States evolved to do justice between litigating parties in respect of transactions or personal status involving a foreign element.[ii] Conflicting laws of different state legislatures in India, the overlapping entries in different lists[iii], the conflict of different personal laws are not the subject matter, we are here concerned with.

Legitimacy in layman’s language means the status acquired by a person who is born to parents who are married to one another at the time of the birth. Legitimation means that a person who has not been born to married parents acquires the status of legitimacy as a result of some act. Adoption involves the extinction of the parental links between the child and the biological parents and the creation of similar links between the child and the adoptive parents.[iv]

Although there are many areas in which rules of law reflect current feelings of moral and social policy, few justiciable controversies call for the determination of such factors as directly as does a case involving the legal status and rights of an illegitimate child. This is particularly true where one state is called upon to determine the status of an illegitimate who was born or has been domiciled in another state prior to migration to the forum.

In such situations, the policy of the forum might conflict sharply with that of the state in which the parents attempted to “legitimate” the child. And in making a choice as to which law should properly be applied, the court’s decision will determine not only the legal rights of the child but to a significant degree will also affect the child’s social status and his own personal feelings in regard to the stigma placed upon him by his parents.

The early common law treatment of the illegitimate child showed a marked disregard for these social implications. Based on the refusal of the Earls and Barons in 1235 to provide for legitimation of a child born out of wedlock,’ Lord Chief Justice Tindal was able to state in Birtwhistle v. Vardill that:

“. . . the rule of descent to English land is, that the heir must be born after the actual marriage of his father and mother . . . and . . . this is a rule of a positive inflexible nature, applying to and inherent in the land itself which is the subject of descent.

The fact that the claimant had acquired a status of legitimacy according to the laws of Scotland was held to be wholly immaterial. Under the law of England, one seeking rights of inheritance must have been born during lawful wedlock, and his status in another country was of no consequence.

This unyielding refusal on the part of the early common law courts to give any legal recognition to an illegitimate was succinctly described by Blackstone when he wrote that such a child’s “. . . rights are very few, being only such as he can acquire, for he can inherit nothing, being looked upon as the son of nobody, and sometimes called filius nullius, sometimes filiuspopuli.”

In fact, children born out of wedlock continued to be regarded in England as bastards for life until the Legitimacy Act of 1926 finally made provision for legitimation by the subsequent intermarriage of the child’s parents.’

While England was slow to recognize the potential in an illegitimate child to acquire a status of full legitimacy, the American law developed with greater rapidity, and only a few instances of adherence to the strict common law principle may be cited. For example, in 1895, the Florida Supreme Court declared that “. . . legitimation in a foreign country does not make lawful heirs, in other countries, where the common law or the statute of Merton is now in force, of those who were born out of lawful marriage.”

And in Smith v. Derr’s Adm’rs, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to depart from common law precedents, stating that “so far as our law is concerned, legitimation by the subsequent marriage of the parents abroad, by act of a foreign legislature or by judicial decree abroad, are all fruitless.” Fortunately, such cancerous doctrines did not become malignant, and all fifty states have recognized the inequity of an indelible status of illegitimacy byproviding for some form of legitimation after birth.

Statutory Background

The usual conflict of laws case involving an illegitimate child arises as follows: An illegitimate child is born in State A, and while domiciled in that state, or in State B, the parents do an act which would have the effect of legitimating the child according to the law of that jurisdiction.

The parents then move to the forum where the father eventually dies, or perhaps they are domiciled in another state at the time of his death, and he leaves real or personal property in the forum. Claiming a right of inheritance from or through his father, the child proves that he has been legitimated according to the law of another state, and alleges that the foreign created status of legitimacy should be recognized and given full effect in the forum.

The “conflict” in such a case is generally due to the fact that the legitimation statute of the forum is different than that of State A or State B. This section will attempt to point out the lack of uniformity in statutory provisions which gives rise to such conflict of laws cases. The only action necessary to make a child legitimate in relation to his natural parents and their collaterals is the act of birth itself.

The second most common statutory provision is one enabling the child to inherit from or through his father, or granting full legitimacy if the father has acknowledged paternity.

Every illegitimate child is an heir of the person who, in writing, signed in the presence of a competent witness, acknowledges himself to be the father, and inherits his or her estate, in whole or in part, as the case may be, in the same manner as if he had been born in lawful wedlock; but he does not represent his father by inheriting any part of the estate of his father’s kindred, either lineal or collateral, unless, before his death, his parents shall have intermarried, and his father, after such marriage, acknowledges him as his child or adopts him into his family; in which case such child is deemed legitimate for all purposes of succession.

In addition to the two methods of legitimation discussed above, several miscellaneous provisions need to be mentioned in order to complete the picture. Legitimacy may be established by means of an expressly authorized judicial proceeding.25

In Louisiana a notarial act before two witnesses is sufficient, and in Wisconsin, an admission of paternity in open court will have the same effect. A father may “adopt” his illegitimate child and thereby legitimate him as of the time of birth.

The latter provision in regard to the “adoption” of an illegitimate child is of particular importance.


A child is, or is presumed to be, legitimate if it is born anywhere in the world in “lawful wedlock‟.[v] Illegitimacy is a state which not only imposes a social stigma but deprives a person of rights of succession to the estate of his/her father.

Position in England

The system and the attitude of denying an illegitimate child the right to inherit his father‟s property has now markedly changed in England.[vi] Courts can, under the law, declare a person to be legitimate if the applicant is, when he commences the proceedings, domiciled in England, or was, for throughout a period of one year before the commencement of the proceedings, habitually resident in England.[vii]

A child conceived before marriage is regarded as legitimate if born after the parents were married, and so also a child conceived before but born after the parents were divorced.[viii] A child born after artificial insemination is legitimate even if the donor is not the husband; unless it is proved that the husband did not consent to the insemination.[ix] This rule only applies where the parties to the marriage are Man and Women and, as decided in J v. C[x], this rule does not apply where the women marries to a transsexual person.

A child not born in lawful wedlock would, however, be regarded as legitimate in England if, and only if, it is legitimate by the law of the domicile of both the parents at the time it was born.[xi]

Traditionally, the children of the polygamous marriage are not regarded as legitimate, however, in England, they are regarded as legitimate if they are so regarded by the law of the country where the parents were domiciled when the child was born.[xii]

In Re: Bischoffsheim,[xiii]a single Judge has laid down the rule that English courts would recognize the status of legitimacy if the child is regarded as legitimate by the law of the domicile of the parents at the birth of the child. This judgment is severely criticized as it is difficult in the application where parents have different domiciles. However, a step forward is taken by the Law Commission in England to answer the difficulties i.e. it suggested that the lexdomiciliito be adopted should be that with which the child was most closely connected[xiv].

Under the rule of „putative marriages‟, children of a void marriage are recognized as legitimate if either of the parents believed that the marriage is valid. This rule is also recognized by the Legitimacy Act 1959[xv] subject to the provision that the father should be an English citizen. Question often arises as to whether this rule will be applicable where the domicile country recognizes this rule and suggestions are often in affirmative.[xvi]

Position in India

In India, “legitimacy‟ is a status of a child being born during the continuance of a valid marriage between the mother and any man, or within 280 days after its dissolution if the mother remains unmarried. Unless it is shown that the parties to the marriage had no access to each other at any time when he could have been conceived, his birth is treated as a conclusive proof of he being legitimate.

Under Section 112 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (herein after referred to as ‘the Act’), if the applicant is domiciled in India on the date of application, the Indian court has jurisdiction to grant a declaration that he is the legitimate child of his parents.

Though there is no decision of the Supreme Court on the point, it has been held that illegitimate children cannot succeed to their father’s estate on intestacy[xvii] but can succeed mothers‟ estate. If the child was born of a marriage which is null and void under Section 11 or 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the child is deemed to be legitimate and consequently can succeed to the estate of the father on intestacy[xviii].

In Mahomedan law, applicable to Sunnis governed by the HanafiSchool, illegitimate children cannot inherit from the father, but can from the mother. But in the case of Shias, the illegitimate children can never inherit.[xix]

Illegitimate children cannot succeed to property on intestacy under the Indian Succession Act, 1925, Christians, Parsis and other religious groups are governed under this statute.


Legitimization is a process to recognize the child of being legitimate. Subsequent Marriage between the parties, Acknowledgment by the man[xx] etc. are the examples of legitimation.

Position in England

English courts had jurisdiction to entertain proceedings for a declaration that a person was legitimated, or not if, at the date the proceedings are commenced, the applicant is domiciled in England or had been habitually resident in England for at least one year.[xxi]

The role of Conflict of Law is to choose the system of law which shall determine whether legitimation by this method is effective or not. The rule finally established at common by Re Grove[xxii], after some hesitation in Boyes[xxiii], is that a foreign legitimation by subsequent marriage is not recognized in England unless the father is domiciled, both at the time of the child’s birth and also at the time of the subsequent marriage, in a country whose law allows this method of legitimation.

The present law is that, where the parents of an illegitimate person marry, the marriage shall, if the father is at the date of the marriage domiciled in England and Wales, render the person, if living, legitimate from the date of the marriage.[xxiv]

With regard to persons who are not domiciled in England and Wales, section 3 of the Legitimacy Act 1976 provides as follows:

“…where the parents of an illegitimate person marry one another and the father of the illegitimate person is not at the time of the marriage domiciled in England and Wales but is domiciled in a country by the law of which the illegitimate person became legitimated by virtue of such subsequent marriage, that person, if living, shall in England and Wales be recognised as having been so legitimated from the date of the marriage notwithstanding that, at the time of his birth, his father was domiciled in a country the law of which did not permit legitimation by subsequent marriage.”

This law discards the rule that the father’s domicile at the time of the child’s birth is sine qua non, instead, the law of the father’s domicile at the time of the marriage is the sole decisive factor[xxv].

Position in India

Indian law, whether Hindu law or Muhammadan law, only recognizes the concept of legitimacy of a child and not of legitimation. When there is any doubt as to the legitimacy of a child, under Muhammadan law the acknowledgment by the presumptive father is the proof that the child so acknowledged is the legitimate child of the presumptive father, provided that legitimacy is possible.[xxvi]

In Bibi Nanyer-Omissa[xxvii], even in the absence of evidence of the marriage between the parties, the Privy Council on acknowledgement declared the child to be legitimate. But the Muslim scholars criticized this judgment and have favoured Muhammad Allahdad Khan[xxviii], where the court held that a child whose illegitimacy is proved beyond doubt, by reason of the marriage of its parents being either disproved or found to be unlawful cannot be legitimatized by acknowledgment.

In the State of Goa, and the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867, continues to apply, and under Article 119 to 122 of that Code, legitimation is recognized.

Hague Conference on Private International Law

Recognizing some of the difficulties and challenges associated with international adoption, the Hague Conference on Private International Law developed the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter country Adoption which came into force on 1 May 1995.

The main objectives of the Convention are to establish safeguards to ensure that inter country adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights as recognized in international law. Secondly, to establish a system of co-operation amongst the Contracting States to ensure that those safeguards are respected and thereby prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children. Thirdly, to secure the recognition in the Contracting States of adoptions made in accordance with the Convention.

Judicial Developments

Legitimation by judicial proceeding and by the special legislative act have rarely been presented in a conflict of laws context. According to the Restatement of Conflicts, and Professor Beale, an act performed after the birth of an illegitimate child will not relate back to the time of birth and make the child legitimate ab initio unless the law of “. . . the state of domicile of that parent at the time of the child’s birth and the law of the parent’s domicile at the time of the legitimating act so provide.”

No recent case can be found supporting such a requirement, and this writer joins Professor Rabel in his suggestion that it is an artificial doctrine based on a “preconceived idea” unsupported by any “. American decision of actual importance.

The general problems involved before applying them to statutory provisions need to be seen first.

(1) The status of a child may fall within any one of five classifications; legitimate, illegitimate, illegitimate but capable of inheriting from one or both parents, legitimated, or recognized as a natural child under civil law concepts. Of these five, it is most important to keep in mind the distinction between an illegitimate child who has been fully legitimated and one who has acquired only a right to inherit from or through his parents.

(2) The law of the domicile of a decedent governs the question of those entitled to distribution of his personal property, and the law of the situs controls in regard to real property.”

(3) An illegitimate child fully legitimated by the law of the domicile of the parent whose relationship to the child is in question, is generally regarded as legitimate everywhere. To this general rule must be tacked the caveat that the forum might not recognize a foreign legitimation which is contrary to its own concepts of public policy.”

(4) If the child has been fully legitimated according to the law of the domicile of his parent, it is immaterial that the law of the child’s own domicile would not have this effect.”

(5) An act done which is sufficient to legitimate under the laws of the state where performed, will not legitimate where such act is not sufficient under the laws of the domicile of any of the parties involved. It is also doubtful whether an attempted act of legitimation will be given effect in a foreign jurisdiction where such act is sufficient only in the state of the child’s domicile.

(6) Where the act of a parent in a foreign jurisdiction did not fully legitimate the child in that state or country, but only resulted in a right to inherit from that parent, such act will generally be disregarded in other jurisdictions.

(7) If the forum characterizes its own legitimation statute as one of succession, an illegitimate may be permitted to inherit local property, both real and personal, without consideration of the law of the parent’s domicile at the time of the alleged legitimating act.

Legislation by Subsequens Matrimonin

Of the several methods whereby an illegitimate child may become legitimate, that of legitimation per subsequens matrimonin is most common existing in all but one state. Due possibly to the fact that such statute is usually present both at the forum and at the domicile of the parents at the time of their marriage, there has been little deviation from the general principles listed above.

Thus, if the parents subsequently marry, and according to the law of their domicile at that time, the ceremony has the effect of legitimating the child, he will generally be deemed legitimate wherever he might go. Should either of his parents die intestate leaving realty or personalty in another jurisdiction, he will be entitled to inherit as a legitimate heir. And even though his father may die domicileed in a state other than that where legitimation by subsequent marriage occurred, he will nevertheless be entitled to recover under his father’s life insurance policy. In addition, the rule recognizing such a foreign legitimation applies in favor of the parents as well as the child.

Thus, it is unnecessary for the parents to institute judicial proceedings to establish legitimacy, because a legitimate child cannot be legitimated, and the forum will recognize the status acquired in the state of the parent’s former domicile. Another situation in which the forum might extend such recognition to the parents is illustrated in the rather unusual case of Skeadas v. Sklaroff. After giving birth to an illegitimate child in Rhode Island, the mother consented to a proposed adoption by the defendant and gave them custody of the child.

More than four years later the defendants filed a petition in Rhode Island to adopt the child, whereupon the natural parents immediately went through a marriage ceremony in Massachusetts (the state of their domicile). Before the words of the preacher had faded away, they filed suit in Rhode Island to obtain custody of their child, alleging that he had been legitimated due to the Massachusetts marriage, and any adoption in Rhode Island would be of no effect without the consent of the legitimate father. Applying the same conflict of laws rule which enables a legitimated child to inherit in the forum, the court held that the natural parents were entitled to custody because the child had been legitimated.

The second Illinois case of importance in regard to the issue of the forum’s public policy is that of Fuhrhop v. AustinY. In this case, the child was also the issue of a bigamous marriage, but the father did not attempt to divorce one of his wives and the child could not establish a valid common law marriage.

However, in Arkansas, a child born of a bigamous marriage is deemed legitimate, and the claimant argued that he should be regarded as legitimate in Illinois due to his status under the law of Arkansas where his parents were domicileed at the time of the bigamous marriage. His claim was rejected; the court pointing out that the descent of real property is governed by the law of the situs, and it is against the public policy of Illinois to permit the issue of a bigamous marriage to succeed to Illinois land.

Although the decision of the court was supported by the few cases directly in point, an early Louisiana case apparently rejected the public policy qualification to the general rule. In Caballero v. The Executor,” a negro woman and a caucasian man had an illegitimate child in Louisiana. The parents then acquired a domicile in Havana and were later married. Although miscegenation was clearly against the public policy of Louisiana in 1872, the child was permitted to inherit in that state because of the legitimation in the country where the parents were domicileed when married. While this case should not be overlooked merely because of its date, it seems to have little weight today due to the pervasive view that the policy of the forum will control where a case revolves around a claim of right to inherit local property.” Thus, it is possible that the forum might recognize a status of legitimacy acquired due to the subsequent marriage of the parents in another jurisdiction, but at the same time refuse to permit the legitimated child to inherit local property due to domestic concepts of “public policy.”

Legitimation by Acts Other Than Marriage

Subsequent acknowledgment of paternity

Where a father has attempted to legitimate his child by acknowledging paternity, a sister state will generally give this effect to his act if it was sufficient to legitimate according to the law of his domicile at the time he acted  and this is so even though the forum may have no such statute.” The real problem involved where legitimation is claimed under such a provision is one of characterization-is the statute one of legitimation, giving the child a status of full legitimacy, or one of succession, giving him only a right to inherit from his father? The prevailing view seems to be in favor of succession rather than legitimation.

Moen v. Moen is illustrative of this point. While domicileed in Norway, father Moen executed a written document acknowledging paternity of his illegitimate child. The law of Norway attached no legal significance to this act, but the South Dakota court characterized its own acknowledgment statute as one of succession and permitted the child to inherit local realty. In so holding, the court made this rather interesting statement:

It may be conceded that heneither knew nor intended that its execution would confer upon the child the right to inherit his property in any jurisdiction. Nevertheless, it had the effect of furnishing the proof required by the laws of this jurisdiction to establish the fact that he was the father of the child, and such fact being thus established makes her an heir of her deceased father, and entitled to the land in controversy.

To the same effect is the case of Blythe v. Ayres, where the California court characterized its acknowledgment statute as one of succession “pure and simple,” holding that “. . . the plaintiff is entitled to all the benefits of it, regardless of domicile, status or extraterritorial operation of state laws.”

Legitimation by adoption-

Several of the leading conflicts of laws cases have been based on a claim of legitimation under such provisions. One such case is that of In Re Presley’s Estate.”While domiciled in Tennessee, father Presley acknowledged paternity, accepted his illegitimate child into his family with the consent of his wife, and treated the child in all respects as though legitimate. According to the law of Tennessee, these acts were of no legal consequence, but under the law of Oklahoma where Presley Sr. died a domicileiary, they were sufficient to legitimate.

In holding that Presley Jr. could not inherit from his father in Oklahoma, the court applied the general rule looking to the law of the father’s domicile at the time of his alleged legitimating acts, and found that a status of legitimacy had not been created in Tennessee. The court then indicated that where a child has not been legitimated according to the law of the father’s domicile, the act of moving to another state will not create such a status, regardless of the fact that the child would be deemed legitimate had the acts occurred in the latter state.

As authority for its position that the law of the father’s domicile is determinative in regard to legitimation, the court in the Presley case cited Blythe v. Ayres:

“perhaps the most important single case dealing with conflict o laws and illegitimate children. In this early California case, father Blythe sired an illegitimate daughter while in England. At the time of birth, and at all times up to and including the time of his death, Blythe was domiciled in California.

“Although he had never married, and his daughter did not come to California until after his death, she claimed a right to his rather large estate by reason of alleged acts sufficient to meet the requirements of Section 230 of California’s Civil Code.”

In holding that all of the requirements of this section were satisfied, thus legitimating the daughter and entitling her to all of her father’s estate, the court had several rather difficult hurdles to jump.  First, the statute states that the father “thereby adopts” his illegitimate child.

As a matter of statutory construction, the court reasoned that adoption, properly considered, refers to persons who are strangers in blood; legitimation, to persons where the blood relation exists.” Thus, the court concluded, “adopts” means “legitimates.” Second, the statute requires that the father “receive” the child into his “family.” Although

Blythe died a bachelor and his daughter did not come to California until after his death, the court held that he had a constructive family into which he might constructively receive his English daughter.” Hurdle number three-does the statute apply in favor of a non-resident illegitimate?

Although the court was unable to find any authority dealing with legitimation by subsequent “adoption,” it applied and promulgated the now black-letter rule that legitimation depends upon the law of the father’s domicile at the time of the alleged acts of legitimation.” In answer to the English doctrine of “indelibility of bastardy,” the court pointedly stated:

Legitimation is the creature of legislation. Its existence is solely dependent upon the law and policy of each particular sovereignty.

The law and policy of this state authorize and encourage it, and there is no principle upon which California law and policy, when invoked in California courts, shall be made to surrender to the antagonistic law and policy of Great Britain.”

Recognized Natural Child

The civil law concept providing for the status of a recognized natural child is unknown to the common law, falling within neither the category of illegitimate or legitimated. Although there is a lack of uniformity in civil law jurisdictions as to what is necessary in order to acquire such a status, for our purposes it may be explained as follows: Even though the parents of an illegitimate child have never married, the child may acquire certain rights of inheritance if his parents were capable of marriage at the time he was born, and if they subsequently recognize him as their child according to the procedure required by the civil code.

Having acquired such a status, if it later becomes necessary for him to seek recognition of his inheritance rights in a common law jurisdiction, he is faced with the rather difficult task of convincing the court that he should not be regarded as illegitimate, but should be treated as though he had been fully legitimated under common law concepts. Unfortunately, his chances of success are very slim.

The attitude of the American courts toward a claim by a recognized natural child that his foreign status should be given effect, may be capsulized by quoting from Professor Beale: “There is no corresponding status at common law; and in a common-law state therefore this status has no legal effect.” Several reasons have been given for such a harsh rule. First, the civil law of a foreign country can have no extraterritorial effect upon the devolution of property located in the forum.”

Second, if recognition is to be given at all, it is because of international comity only, and should not be extended where contrary to the policy of the forum or where enforcement would prejudice the rights or interests of citizens of the forum. Third, “the natural child does not obtain, by the act of recognition, a status of a legitimate but is merely permitted to inherit as a ‘natural child’.” Therefore, since not fully legitimated, he can claim no right to inherit in any country other than that where the right was granted.

Underlying each of these reasons is one obvious factor. The law under which the child is claiming to have acquired a status of partial legitimacy does not fit within any of the pigeonholes developed by the common law, and a new one will not be created. A much more reasonable position is that taken by Judge Clark in Robles v. Folsom.”‘

Since civil law jurisdictions have three categories of children and New York has only two, the ‘acknowledged natural child’ must be likened to either New York ‘legitimates’ or New York ‘bastards.’ The chief similarity to the New York bastard, for purposes of intestate succession, is a mere semantic identity neither is labeled ‘legitimate.’ On the other hand, the acknowledged child is one whom the father claimed as his own with the knowledge that the act would confer on it rights of inheritance and greater social status.

Judge Clark then concluded that common law courts should regard the acknowledged natural child as though he had been legitimated in accordance with common law principles. By so doing, the court would be stressing the similarities which exist between the two concepts rather than enlarging upon differences in terminology, and would be giving effect to the obviously beneficent intent of the parent.


No better example can be given of the adaptability of the commonlaw to fluctuating mores and concepts of social policy, than the progressivelymore tolerant treatment afforded by common law courts andlegislatures to those children unfortunate enough to be born out of wedlock.

Recognizing the inequity of an indelible status of illegitimacy, and realizing that punishment of the illegitimate in no way deters illicitcohabitation, American legislatures have unanimously rejected the archaicdoctrine embodied in the Statute of Merton. Despite such early commonlaw precedents branding illegitimates as bastards for life, modern courtsand legislatures have refused to disregard the social environment in whichthey function, and have recognized in each illegitimate child a potentialof acquiring a legal status of full legitimacy.

In furtherance of this desirable social end, courts have also endeavorea1 to apply conflict of lawsprinciples in such a way as to ameliorate the effects of a status of illegitimacywhich attached to a child born out of wedlock in another state orcountry. Thus, the courts will recognize and give full effect to acts oflegitimation effective according to the domicile of the parent, regardlessof whether the subsequently created status of legitimacy arose due tothe marriage of the parents, acknowledgment of paternity, or “adoption” of the child.

In fact, there are only three frequently recurring instanceswhere a foreign born illegitimate might not receive favorable treatmentin the forum; where some “policy” of the forum is contrary to the lawof the jurisdiction in which the child acquired a status of legitimacy, where the foreign law resulted in the creation of only a right to inheritand not a status of full legitimacy, and where the child has become arecognized natural child in a civil law jurisdiction.

There would seem to be little justification for even these few instanceswhere a forum might act unfavorably in response to a child’sattempt to establish legitimacy. In regard to the first, it is doubtfulwhether any court today can accurately say that there is a policy in theforum which would justifiably warrant the non-recognition of a status oflegitimacy acquired in another jurisdiction.

But conceding that such aposition has been taken by several courts, it may still be argued that thereis no sound principle supporting such non-recognition merely because thestatus of legitimacy was created under a conflicting foreign law, andindeed, none has been suggested. The second instance of unfavourable treatment can be avoided, in the usual case, if the forum will characterizeits own legitimation statute as one of succession as well as status, thus entitling the forum to apply its own statute where inheritance oflocal property is involved. Legitimation results in the creation of astatus which involves a number of legal rights and obligations betweena parent and his child, and one of those rights is that of inheritance.

Thus, if we look to the parts as well as the whole, it is reasonable to concludethat a statute of legitimation is not one of status only, but alsoone dealing with rights of succession. Such reasoning has been applied inregard to legitimation by subsequent marriage,” by acknowledgment ofpaternity,’ and by “adoption,”‘ thus making it unnecessary for thechild to establish complete legitimation according to the law of some otherjurisdiction. In regard to the third area of possible unfavorable treatmentin the forum, that of the recognized natural child, the difficulty isbased on the failure of the courts to properly assimilate this civil lawconcept into the established common law pattern. Admittedly, such achild is neither illegitimate nor has he been legitimated. But the statuswhich he has acquired is most closely akin to the common law conceptof the legitimated child, and he should be granted the rights of such achild when before the courts of this country.

With the increasing transnational movement of the population and the growing concept of global citizenship, the issue relating to legitimacy, legitimation and adoption has become nothing less than „complex‟. The position in England has changed and has given respect to the lex domicile. Foreign orders on legitimacy and legitimation are recognized in England, though adoption is still governed under the domestic laws. On the other hand, in India, adoption is majorly influenced by personal laws and with no recognition to Legitimation.

Formatted on March 1st, 2019.


[i]What is meant by the Conflict of Laws, Conflict of Laws, Halsbury Law Journal, Vol:10, p. 75.001.

[ii]R Viswanathan v. Rukn-ul-Mulk Syed Abdul Wajid, AIR 1963 SC 1 at 10, [1963] 3 SCR 22.

[iii]Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India.

[iv]Fawcett, James etal., Cheshire and North‟s Private International Law, 14th edition, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2008, p. 1141-2.

[v]Setalvad, Atul M., Conflict of Laws, 2nd edn., LexisNexis ButterworthsWadhwa, Nagpur, 2009, p. 397.

[vi]Dicey, Morris & Collins, Conflict of Laws, 14th edn.,paras 20-002 and 20-010 c.f. Setalvad, Atul M., Conflict of Laws, 2nd edn., LexisNexis ButterworthsWadhwa, Nagpur, 2009.

[vii]Id. R 103, p 1036-37.

[viii]Knowles v. Knowles [1962] 1 All ER 659

[ix]The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, 1990

[x]J v. C [2007] Fam 1 (CA).

[xi]Supra note 6, r 104(2), p. 1040.

[xii]Bamgbose v. Daniel [1954] 3 All ER 263

[xiii]Bischoffsheim, Re [1948] Ch 79, [1947] 2 All ER 830.

[xiv]Supra note 6, para 20-015

[xv]Replaced by Legitimacy Act 1976.

[xvi]Cheshire, North & Fawcett, Private International Law, 14th edn. P. 1149 c.f. Setalvad, Atul M., Conflict of Laws, 2nd edn., LexisNexis ButterworthsWadhwa, Nagpur, 2009.

[xvii]DaddoAtmaramPatil v. RaghunathAtmaramPatilAIR 1969 Bom 176; Ramkali v. MahilaShyamwatiAIR 2000 MP 288.

[xviii]GurnamKaur v. Puran Singh (1996) 2 SCC 567.

[xix]Mulla‟s principles of Mahomedan Law, 19th edn., p. 81 and 99.

[xx]In several states in Europe and in North and South America, a father is allowed to legitimate his child by formally recognizing him as his own

[xxi]Supra note 6, r 108, p. 1065

[xxii]Grove Re, (1888) 40 Ch D 216

[xxiii]Boyes v. Bedale(1863) 1 Hem & M 798

[xxiv]Section 2 of the Legitimacy Act, 1976.

[xxv]Heron v. National Trustees Executors and Agency Co of Australasia Ltd [1976] VR 733.

[xxvi]Sadik Husain Khan v. Hashim Ali Khan (1916) ILR 38 All 627, PC.

[xxvii]BibiNanyer-Omissa v. BibiZainirun11 WR 476.

[xxviii]Muhammad Allahdad Khan v. Muhammad Ismail Khan (1888) ILR 10 All 289

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