A child born out of wedlock is, by law, an illegitimate child of both parents. If both parents marry in the future, the child may become legitimated; provided, that the parents of the child were not suffering from any legal impediment to marry each other at the time of the child’s birth. In other words, both parents should have been legally single and free to marry one another, if they wanted to, at the time their lovechild was born. The consequence of the subsequent marriage of such persons is the legitimation of their lovechild.
Legitimation is not automatic. One has to apply for the new status to be reflected in the birth certificate of the child. Legitimation changes the status of the child from illegitimate to legitimate, thereby granting to the child additional rights such as the right to use the father’s surname and to inherit as a legitimate child from both parents. Some seek legitimation for their child for purely social reasons.
An interesting case came up involving two friends who had a lovechild before getting married to one another. The father of the illegitimate child was still legally married to his spouse at the time of the child’s birth, while the child’s mother was single. The subsequent marriage, however, could not result in the legitimation of the illegitimate child because of the legal impediment that existed at the time of her birth.
But what can one do to lessen the stigma that normally attaches to children born out of wedlock,when it is through no fault of their own? Though legitimation is not possible, I advised both parents to file a petition for the child to be allowed to use the surname of the father by virtue of Republic Act No. 9255. Under this law, illegitimate children may be allowed to carry the father’s surname.
One may not be able to wipe out entirely mistakes in one’s past, but one can at least make it less visible to society for the sake of the child.