The question of parentage is often raised in Family Law and Child Support matters, especially when dealing with short casual relationships or pregnancies shortly following a separation.
So, what do you do if you are concerned whether you are the father?
Firstly, it is important to understand that for both Child Support and Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act”) there are presumptions in place regarding paternity. You are presumed to be the father in the following circumstances:-
- you were a party to a marriage (including where you are divorced but were married around the time of conception);
- you were a party to a de-facto relationship (including when you are separated but were in a relationship around the time of conception);
- you were named on the birth certificate;
- there is a Court Order naming you as the Father; or
- you signed an instrument confirming that you are the Father;
You should refrain from signing any documents stating that you are the Father or agreeing to being on the birth certificate until you are sure of the paternity of the child.
Ideally, if you have doubts regarding paternity, you should firstly discuss your concerns with the Mother and see if she would be willing to submit herself and the child a voluntary legal DNA test to clear up any concerns.
However, if the Mother is not willing to do so you are able to make an application to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (“the Court”) under section 69W of the Act for a parentage testing order to compel the child to undertake legal DNA testing. To be successful in this application to the Court you need to be able to provide the Court with evidence which raises serious doubt regarding the paternity of the child including rebutting the above presumptions.
It is important to act quickly if you have doubts about paternity as there can be consequences in the future should you delay making an application.
We recommend that if you have any concerns regarding paternity, you contact our office to make an appointment with one of our experienced family lawyers.