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A child born in wedlock is presumed to have the mother's husband for its
father. This may, however, be open to question upon the following
grounds: Absence or death of the reputed father; impotence or disease in
the husband preventing matrimonial intercourse; premature delivery in a
newly-married woman; want of access; and the marriage of the woman again
immediately on the death of her husband. In the last case, where either
husband might have been the father, the child at the age of twenty-one
is at liberty to select its father from the possible pair.
A child born of parents before marriage is in Scotland rendered
legitimate by their subsequent marriage, but in England the offspring
remains illegitimate whether the parents marry or not after its birth.
The offspring of voidable or invalid marriages may be made legitimate
by application to the courts.
There is a difference between being legitimate and lawfully begotten. A
child born in wedlock is legitimate, but if the parents were married
only a week previously it could not have been lawfully begotten.
The Acts and rulings relating to Marriage and Legitimacy are extremely
complicated. It is not putting it too strongly to say that a very large
number of people in this country who believe themselves to be legally
married are not married at all, and that thousands of children who have
not the slightest doubt as to their legitimacy are in the eyes of the
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