New England Law Review
This article discusses paternity proceedings which unwed birth fathers initiate in order to obtain visitation with or custody of their child. In Part 1 the author provides an overview of the legal issues he will develop regarding the rights of putative fathers. Part 2 discusses the presumption of legitimacy, which prevents birth fathers from admitting in evidence facts which would render the child illegitimate. Part 3 examines the best interests of the child standard and the United States Supreme Court cases where birth fathers have sought visitation or custody. This section also explores the extent to which the relationships between unwed fathers and their children are protected under the constitution. Part 4 surveys the efforts putative fathers have made to challenge the presumption of legitimacy in order to secure visitation or custody. These efforts have included testing rules regarding testimonial evidence, challenging the burden of proof by which paternity must be determined and offering scientific evidence such as blood tests to affirm paternity. Part 5 looks at other circumstances in which children are exposed to more than their nuclear family. The article argues that the same reasons for allowing children to be with more than one family exist when children have unwed fathers. The paper concludes that the presumption of legitimacy is no longer practical and allowing putative fathers to have visitation or custody of their children could be in everyone's best interests. The article proposes that courts re-examine ideas of conventional family composition and consider more liberalized views of family. Numerous references.
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