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Declaration of paternity

What is a declaration of paternity?

Status of Children Act 1969, ss 84, 10

A declaration of paternity is an official statement by the Family Court or High Court that a man is the father of a child. A declaration of paternity is conclusive evidence of paternity and is usually sought when the mother or the child wishes to establish rights of inheritance.

Who can apply for a declaration of paternity?

Status of Children Act 1969, s 10

If there is a dispute about paternity, the mother, the alleged father, the child, or any other person with a proper interest in the result, may apply to the Family Court or the High Court for a declaration of paternity. An application can be made even if the alleged father, or the alleged child, or both of them, are dead.

Note: Applying for a declaration is the only way a man can prove or disprove his paternity.

Can a declaration state that a man is not the child’s father?

Status of Children Act 1969, s 103

Yes. If the court is satisfied that a man is not the father of the child it can make a declaration of non-paternity. The court can do this on its own initiative or on the application of one of the parties.

How does a court establish paternity?

A court will look at things like:

  • the history of the relationship between the mother and the alleged father and whether the relationship was known to any third party
  • when and how the child was conceived
  • medical evidence about the birth
  • whether the alleged father has made any admissions of sexual intercourse with the mother or of paternity
  • whether the mother had sexual intercourse with any other man around the time of the child’s conception (to establish whether anyone else could be the child’s father).

Family Proceedings Act 1980, ss 54–59

Often, the court will recommend that parentage tests (DNA testing) be done to help determine paternity. These involve either blood samples or mouth swab samples being taken from the alleged father, the mother and from the child. The alleged father can refuse to have the test, but the court can take the refusal into account in making its decision. Legal Aid is available for parentage tests.

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