Parentage at Birth: Birthfathers and Social Fatherhood

35 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2013

See all articles by Nancy E. Dowd

Nancy E. Dowd

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: June 1, 2006


Deciding who should be a child's legal parents at birth seems a simple task. Instinctively, the answer is the child's biological mother and father. Historically, the answer would have been different depending on whether the child was born within a marriage or not; marriage trumped biology, at least with respect to fathers. A husband was generally presumed to be the father of a child born to his wife, even if there was no genetic connection. A number of changes have moved parentage away from the marital/genetic/patriarchal model that valued the marital family above genes or social fatherhood. Modern principles of parentage center on children's well-being and social benefit. The question raised by our changed context is how we should define parentage consistent with those principles. This article focuses on parentage by looking exclusively at fathers.

Keywords: parenting, fathers, family law

Suggested Citation

Dowd, Nancy Elizabeth, Parentage at Birth: Birthfathers and Social Fatherhood (June 1, 2006). 14 Wm & Mary Bill Rts. J. 909 (2006), Available at SSRN:

Nancy Elizabeth Dowd (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States
352-273-0930 (Phone)
352-392-3005 (Fax)


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