How Much Does Paternity Testing Mean?
Whether a man is the biological father of children is sometimes an issue in parenting proceedings or in an application for Child Support. Paternity testing may sometimes determine the outcome of a case. In other cases, a person may be found to have responsibilities for children notwithstanding they are not a biological parent or it may be found to be in the child’s best interest to spend time with them or even live with them, regardless of a lack of paternity.
Do we need to get a paternity test?
The Family Law Act sets up presumptions of parentage. These presumptions mean that the identity of the parents of a child does not have to be proven in every case. The presumptions under the Act are:
Marriage or cohabitation
Under Section 69P, if a child is born to a woman who is married, there is a presumption that the child is the child of the woman and her spouse.
Under Section 69Q, if a child is born to a woman who is cohabiting with a man, there is a presumption that the child is the child of the man.
If a person’s name is entered as a parent on a child’s birth certificate, there is a presumption that the person is the parent of the child (Section 69R).
Acknowledgement by court or in instrument
Under section 69S, where a court has made a finding that a person is a parent of the child, there is a presumption that the person is a parent of the child.
Under section 69T, if a man has executed a legal document, such as a statutory declaration, acknowledging that he is the father, he will be presumed to be the father.
Notwithstanding these presumptions, when parties disagree about paternity, the child’s paternity becomes a live issue in the proceedings.
Challenging paternity in Family Law Proceedings
If a party doubts the paternity of a child, they can challenge the other party’s claims as to who is a parent. The court may make orders for evidence to be heard as to a child’s parentage. The most common order made in this situation is an order that the parties take part in a ‘paternity test.’
The court can make orders for paternity testing on its own initiative or when one of the parties applies for this to occur. If a party fails to comply with paternity testing, the court may draw inferences from their failure.
Various organisations provide DNA testing and usually charge a fee of around $600.00. The paternity test is conducted by taking a mouth swab from the woman, man and child and the DNA is then compared. DNA testing can be done voluntarily or when a court orders it. Where the court orders DNA testing at a party’s request, it will usually make an order setting out who must pay for the DNA testing. This may be the party requesting the paternity testing, the party with greater financial means or the court may order the parties to share the cost, depending on the circumstances. Once test results are provided to the court, the court can make a declaration as to who the parents of the child are. This declaration can be used in Family Law proceedings, as well as for a Child Support Assessment.
Do the results of the paternity test matter?
The results of a paternity test may have various consequences.
If a mother wants to seek Child Support from a man, she must establish that he is the father of the child. This can be done by obtaining a declaration by a court, either on the basis of one of the presumptions in the Family Law Act or based on the results of a paternity test.
If a man is found to be the biological father of a child, he will usually be required to pay Child Support, which is calculated based on his income and assets.
However, if a DNA test reveals that a man is not the child’s biological father, he may still have to pay child support if he has played an active role in the child’s life, maintained a close, familial relationship with the child and presented the child to other people as his own. This is sometimes known as ‘equitable paternity’. If a person has supported a child financially and emotionally for a long time, they will often be required to pay Child Support regardless of their biological parent status.
If a person is a biological parent in a parenting matter, they have standing in the matter. This means that they can participate in the proceedings if they want to do so unless they have relinquished their status as a legal parent (for example, through adoption). The Applicant must serve the application on all parties who have standing. It is then up to the person served whether they respond to the application or not.
In a matter where there is a biological father and an equitable father, the court will generally require service on the biological father if his whereabouts are known. If the biological father’s whereabouts are not known the court may order that service be dispensed with.
If a person is not a child’s biological parent, but the child has an attachment to them, they have standing in a parenting matter involving the child. The court will make orders based on what is in the child’s best interests. This generally involves making arrangements for the child to maintain a connection to all the significant adults in their life. Courts may even make orders for the child to spend regular time with grandparents if there is a dispute between the parties about this. In a case where there is both a biological father and a step-father, and the child has attachments to both, the court will try to accommodate this in any parenting orders it makes.
If you require legal advice or representation in a Family Law matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.