Paternity disputes

What is a paternity suit?

A paternity suit (or application for a declaration of parentage) is an action brought to help establish the identity of a child’s father. Typically a paternity suit is brought by an unmarried mother against the man she believes is the father to establish financial or moral responsibility. But a paternity suit may also be brought by a married mother, by the presumed father (to help in an application for parental responsibility or contact or conversely prove he is not the father) or, in rare cases, by the child.    

What is a paternity test?

A paternity test seeks to establish the parentage of a child and is conducted as part of a paternity suit. Usually a DNA sample is taken from the child, mother and alleged father, and then sent to a laboratory for testing. Consent is needed before each individual can be tested. If the alleged father declines to give consent, the mother can seek a court order for the test to go ahead and the court can draw adverse inferences against the father because of his refusal, possibly concluding that he is the father.

What happens when the results are known?

If the alleged father’s paternity is proven, he will (along with the mother) be legally responsible for the financial costs of raising and caring for that child. Find out more about child support and maintenance.

If the paternity test shows the man concerned is not the child’s biological father, this usually means he is not legally financially responsible for the child.

How Gaby Hardwicke can help

Our family lawyers have extensive experience of helping people through the process of launching and defending paternity suits.

With the market now flooded with companies offering DNA testing, we can help you obtain a DNA test from a trustworthy supplier and give you the emotional support you need every step of the way. If the test results are to be relied upon in court, you should use a supplier accredited by the Ministry of Justice.

If you’ve had a paternity suit issued against you, there is a surfeit of information and potential scenarios to take on board. Our specialist solicitors can offer you support and make you aware of any legal pitfalls at every stage, while making the process as stress-free as possible.

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