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Illegitimacy

Common Law And Illegitimacy, Robert L. Johnson's Son? The Rights Of Illegitimate HeirsCurrent Trends

The condition before the law, or the social status, of a child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of his or her birth.

The term nonmarital child is also used inter-changeably with illegitimate child.

English COMMON LAW placed harsh penalties on an illegitimate child, denying the child inheritance and property rights. Modern law has given the nonmarital child more rights but still differentiates between the marital and nonmarital status. In addition, a rising level of out-of-wedlock births in the United States has drawn the attention of politicians and policy makers.

Current Trends

The rate of illegitimate births in the United States has risen sharply since the early 1970s. In the 1940s fewer than five percent of the total births were out of wedlock. By the early 2000s, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPARTMENT, births to unmarried mothers accounted for nearly one-third of all U.S. births.

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