Relationships / Family

How Does the Father of a Child Establish Paternity?

Paternity issues can create stress and hard feelings if not dealt with promptly and definitively - not just for the parents concerned, but also for the child. Sometimes that means lawyers and the Family Court must be involved.

Andrew met Sally at a pub in town last August. Sally is from England and was working as a waitress part time. Andrew and Sally began a casual relationship which lasted only a few months. Soon after the relationship ended Sally discovered she was pregnant. She informed Andrew and throughout the pregnancy they kept in touch. They even attempted a reconciliation, but it was short lived. When their baby Annabelle was born, Sally allowed Andrew to visit and spend time with her on a few occasions. Over that time, he grew exceedingly fond of Annabelle but a month or so later all contact ceased and Sally would not take Andrew's calls. Andrew suspected that Sally did not want him in Annabelle's life and that she probably wished to return to England with Annabelle in the future, without having to seek consent from him. Andrew obtained a copy of Annabelle's birth certificate, only to find he was not recorded as the father. Unsure of what to do to protect his legal position with respect to his daughter, Andrew sought our advice.

As Andrew is not recorded on the birth certificate and he was not married to Sally nor did he live with her during her pregnancy, Sally is Annabelle's sole guardian. This means that only Sally can make decisions for Annabelle, such as where she lives.

So what can Andrew do? We advised him that to establish he is Annabelle's father he must apply to the Family Court for a declaration of paternity. The Court may recommend that DNA testing be carried out on both Andrew and Annabelle to establish whether there is a relationship of father and child. If Sally refuses to make Annabelle available for DNA testing, the Court may infer from her conduct that Andrew is Annabelle's father. Once a positive DNA test is obtained, the Court will make the declaration of paternity which Andrew must then provide to the Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages in order to amend Annabelle's birth certificate.

Having established paternity and been appointed guardian of Annabelle, Andrew is then able to pursue his application for contact with Annabelle and, most importantly in this case, have a say over where she will live.

Another typical problem we see in relation to paternity issues is after the child is born. The mother finds that the father has 'headed for the hills' in order to avoid paying child support. This usually becomes apparent when she applies for a benefit and WINZ wants to know who the father is. In this case the mother can apply for a paternity order. The same DNA testing is carried out.

If you or anyone you know is in the midst of paternity issues, it is important to get the right advice to ensure an early outcome that will benefit all concerned, particularly the child or children concerned. Brookfields Family Law team is experienced in dealing with this often stressful and tense area of family law - please contact us for more information and assistance.

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The contents of this publication are general in nature and are not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice on a specific matter. In the absence of such advice no responsibility is accepted by Brookfields for reliance on any of the information provided in this publication.


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