Questions have been asked this weekend on the ‘8 out of 10 Mums Ask’ page about the registration of a child’s birth if their parents subsequently marry. I will try here to explain the law on this issue in the hope of reducing the confusion.

If biological parents marry after the birth of their child they are required under the Legitimacy Act 1976 to apply for the re-registration of their child’s birth (using form LA1).

The Act says:

  • It is the duty of the parents of a child who is legitimised by their subsequent marriage to provide to the Registrar information, with a view to obtaining the re-registration of the birth of that person, within 3 months after the date of marriage which legitimised them.
  • If the parent fails to furnish this information this DOES NOT AFFECT the legitimation of that person
  • Any parent who fails to give the information is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £2.

Inheritance Issues

I am aware many people are being told by their local Registrars that if they do not re-register the birth after marriage, their children born in marriage have more ‘rights’ when it comes to inheritance of the estate on death.

Firstly, even if you do not register, the child is still LEGITIMISED as seen by the second point above from the relevant Act. Secondly, any child born outside marriage has the same legal rights under intestacy rules as those born outside marriage.

If you die without leaving a Will, your estate passes under the ‘Intestacy Rules’. If you are married, your spouse will inherit under the Intestacy Rules. If you are unmarried, your partner will not inherit under the Intestacy Rules.

If children inherit under the intestacy rules (i.e. you do not have a spouse, or your estate is large enough that your spouse only receives a share) ALL children of the parent who has died intestate will inherit equally from the estate. This applies where a parent has children from different relationships. A child whose parents are not married (or have not registered a civil partnership) can inherit from the estate of a parent who dies intestate in EXACTLY the same way as a child from within a marriage or civil partnership. These children can also inherit from grandparents or great-grandparents who have died intestate.

It must be a ‘biological’ or an adopted child to inherit.

The only situation I can see where the legitimacy of a child may affect their inheritance is if a Will has been written which only allows legitimate children to inherit. Even if that were the case, in this situation, where parents have later remarried, the child is legitimised by the marriage and NOT by the act of registration, so they are still legitimate.

Parental Responsibility

Someone who has Parental Responsibility for a child has the responsibility (or right) to make decisions about the child’s care and upbringing, including where they live, medical treatment, education, religion and name.

All birth mothers have parental responsibility. Fathers who were married to the mother at the date of birth will have parental responsibility, as will those not married, but registered on the birth certificate (after December 2003).

Re-registration of the birth will only affect parental responsibility of a child if that child was born before December 2003, or the father’s name was not originally put on the birth certificate at the time of the birth.