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Child Custody, Paternity & Legitimation

Child Custody

The custody of children is at issue in many divorce cases. Custody may also be raise in an action for legitimation brought by the biological father of a child who is born to parents who are not married. Relative caregivers may also bring an action for the custody of a child. Â Once a custody order has been issued in a divorce, legitimation or relative caregiver case, a party may seek to modify custody by alleging that there has been a change in circumstances materially affecting the welfare of the child. To read more about child custody, including summaries of recent cases, please follow this link: Posts Related to Child Custody.


Where a child is born to parents who are unmarried, the mother, the child’s guardian, or the government when the mother receives AFDC may bring an action for paternity against the alleged biological father of the child. A paternity action does not create any parental rights but only establishes the biological relationship (often via blood tests) and the obligation of the biological father to provide financial support for the child.


Where a child is born to parents who are married, the biological father may bring an action for legitimation to establish parental rights to the child. An action for legitimation may be an uncontested matter where the parents are in an intact relationship or have a functioning co-parenting relationship. An action for legitimation may be contested by the mother or by potential adoptive parents on the grounds that the legitimation is contrary to the child’s best interests or on the grounds that the father abandoned his opportunity interest to serve as a father to the child.