Paternity/Parentage Disputes

If a person believes they or their former partner is not the parent of a child, or if a person seeks to be recognised as a parent, they can apply for a declaration of parentage.

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The term ‘parent’ includes biological parents of a child in the commonly understood sense and adoptive parents but also extends to include other categories of parents. For example, legislation defines who is a parent of a child born as the result of an artificial conception procedure or pursuant to a surrogacy arrangement.

Presumptions of parentage apply, including for child support purposes. For example, a person is presumed to be a parent of a child if:

  • the person was named as a parent on the child’s birth certificate or adoption certificate;
  • the person signs a statutory declaration declaring they are a parent;
  • the child was born to a married couple during their marriage or within specific windows of time in the case of separation, divorce or annulment;
  • the person is a man who lived with the child’s mother at any time in the period between 44 weeks and 20 weeks before the child’s birth, but they were not married;
  • a court makes an order or finding that identifies a person as a parent of the child.

These presumptions may be rebutted by other evidence.

The Child Support Registrar cannot make a finding of parentage, (including on the basis of a paternity test,) but can decide to accept or reject an application for an assessment of child support based on the presumptions and information available. Only a court can make a determination about parentage based on other evidence, including DNA testing procedures.

The court may order that the parents and child submit to a DNA or other form of parentage test by an accredited testing authority. To support an application for parentage testing, evidence is required to show the child’s parentage is in issue. Harbouring doubts about paternity is not enough. A child’s best interests is also a relevant consideration. If a court orders a DNA test and a person refuses to undertake the test, the court may make a determination and a declaration of paternity on the other evidence available.

If a person is found not to be a parent of a child, child support paid in respect of that child may be recoverable.

A person found not to be a parent of a child may still wish to have a relationship with the child and can seek parenting orders to support that relationship, as a person concerned with the care, welfare or development of a child. A court will consider the child’s best interests when determining such an application.

Taussig Cherrie Fildes can assist you to seek or respond to an application for a declaration of parentage and in relation to related child support and parenting applications.

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