Paternity Law and DNA Testing

Where there is any doubt about paternity of a child then this can be ascertained by paternity DNA testing. If this cannot be agreed the Court has the power to Order this under section 55A(1) of the Family Law Act 1986 where either alleged parent seeks a declaration. The Child Maintenance Service can also apply for a declaration under section 27 of the Child Support Act 1991.

The Court can refuse to hear the application if it is not in the best interests of the child, but this is rare when one of the parents is applying. It is generally taken that the interests of the child are best served by knowing who the parents are.

Where an Order is made it can include taking DNA from the child even if the person with care of the child does not consent. The court cannot compel someone to undertake a DNA test but if either parent refuses to submit to a test, the Court is entitled to draw inferences from their refusal.

There are certain circumstances where the Child Maintenance Service is entitled to make assumptions as to paternity even where it is denied. The circumstances are set out in section 26 of the Child Support Act 1991.

Issues over paternity often arise early in a child's life, and usually only upon separation when there is an application for contact, parental responsibility or financial support. For the alleged father it can be a difficult decision to make to challenge paternity, although in reality it can be viewed as merely seeking to confirm the position. The birth certificate will always be the first port of call to ascertain who has parental responsibility.

Where you believed you were the parent of a child and it is subsequently proven you are not, this does not end the matter. If the child has been brought up thinking you are the parent the Court may still find it in the child's best interests to maintain a relationship with you.

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