What are my options regarding paternity disputes?
Fri 24 February 2023
Darren White, Associate Solicitor in our Family & Children department discusses how a father may be declared the legal parent of a child under English Law where there is a dispute over a child’s parentage.
Parents play a pivotal role in their children’s life, they are the pillars of support, guidance, and love. Parents often contribute to the cognitive, socio-cultural, physical, mental, and spiritual development of a child. Parental values and expertise play a vital role in the healthy upbringing of a child.
The issue of paternity can often be forgotten about within family proceedings as often the priority is given to deciding living and contact arrangements for the child.
Although this is often overlooked, its extremely important for a child to have a sense of identity and a child knowing who their parents are is the key to this.
Generally, a child’s parents are normally registered on their birth certificate. However, in certain situations a father’s name can be left off a birth certificate. This is an example where a party may dispute the identity of a child’s parents.
There are instances where a person may be automatically classed as the parents of another person. This is when the parents were married at the time of birth.
The parents could also sign an affidavit at the hospital before a baby is discharged or at a Public Health unit. This will be a legal statement that can prove the identify of both parents to the child.
When an agreement cannot be reached and there is no legal classification of the parents, Section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986 gives parents the ability to request a Declaration of Parentage from the Court. This will declare whether a named individual is the legal parent of another person under English Law.
The Court also has the ability to consider an application without a formal application if there are ongoing court proceedings in relation to children matters. Similarly, when a mother disputes the paternity of the father, they can apply for a Declaration of Non-Parentage.
The Court can order DNA testing to determine the child’s biological parents but only if it is appropriate in that case.
Currently there are two types of DNA tests:
- Court approved tests.
- Home tests. A home test is not as reliable as a court approved test and is not officially recognised by the courts as proof of parentage.
When it comes to providing consent for testing, a child can have their DNA tested. This can be done without their mother’s consent if the Court believes this will be in the best interests of the child. The Court cannot force a parent to undergo testing but they can accept testimony of the other parent as evidence of Parentage and in turn can make an application for a Declaration of Parentage.
Once the Declaration of Parentage order has been made the parents can apply to have the birth certificate re-registered with both parents.
The process for re-registration is fairly simple. The parties will complete a form and then attend the local registry office to complete the process.
It should be noted that an application for a Declaration of Parentage can be made at any point in life. This is provided that there is sufficient personal interest and connection to England and Wales, and appropriate legal and evidential basis for the application.
Declaration of Parentage applications are important. Applications can be made quickly and simply. As indicated at the start of this blog they are crucial for children to develop their sense of identity.
At Taylor Rose MW, we offer advice in a variety of areas of family law including assisting with making a Declaration of Parentage. If you would like additional information, please get in touch. Contact Darren White by clicking the ‘contact us’ button to email him directly. You can also call Darren on 01925 256 648 at our Warrington office. You can also visit our Family & Children page on the website for more information.