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the legal systems prevailing in England and the United States

Insofar as the legal systems prevailing in England and the United States are concerned, legitimacy is the oldest of our concepts of status affecting children. For a child to be legitimate at common law it is necessary that it be born or conceived in lawful wedlock. The Scotch and Continental legal systems have long made more liberal provisions, and in this country, and more lately in England, liberalizing statutes have been passed. Some of these statutes make legitimate a child born of a void marriage. Others provide for the legitimation of a child born out of wedlock through the occurrence after birth of some event, such as the intermarriage of the parents or the recognition and acknowledgment by a natural parent that the child is his.6 The radical differences between the English common law on the one hand and the Scotch and Continental law on the other, and the differences in statutory policy as between the several states of the United States, have given rise to a relatively large number of cases which furnish abundant judicial authority to support the proposition that legitimacy is a matter to be determined by reference to the law at the domicil.7 An assertion of legitimate character is not likely, however, to be an end in itself. The fact that the natural parents of a person who was born out of wedlock have later intermarried or have subsequently recognized him as their child, so that he has thus acquired legitimate standing according to the law of some particular state, while it may be of personal interest to him, has no juridical significance until that person makes a claim whose legal recognition depends upon his legitimate character. A variety of claims whose alleged legal validity might give rise to issues of legitimacy readily come to mind. Legitimacy could, for example, be an issue in a claim for support by a child against a parent, or in a claim by a parent to the custody of a child. But the claim which has been made in conflict of laws cases has been the right to succeed as a legitimate heir to the estate of a deceased parent or through that parent to the estate of a more remote ancestor or to that of a natural collateral relative.8