Legal presumptions are a useful and efficient way to deal with legal questions. A legal presumption is essentially a legal shortcut. It allows the court to reach a conclusion once a specific set of facts is established. The burden of proof then shifts to the other party to rebut the presumption. See Fed. R. Evid. 301. The legal system uses presumptions to increase efficiency and certainty. As Justice Byron White observed in Stanley v. Illinois, “it is more convenient to presume than to prove.” 405 U.S. 645, 658 (1972).
In the context of family law, perhaps the most significant legal presumption is the presumption of parentage. Constitutional rights and moral, social, and financial obligations arise from the parent-child relationship. As a result, parentage determinations are of critical importance in family law proceedings. However, as technology has advanced and family structures have evolved, parentage determinations have become increasingly more complex. Family law practitioners need to know how to navigate this developing area of law in order to respond to the needs of modern families.