Sometimes there is disagreement or uncertainty about who the father of a child is (parentage), particularly if payment of child support is an issue.
Sometimes, if a person is not sure who the father of a child is, parentage needs to be determined to decide who has to pay child support. This can impact on whether a person can claim Centrelink payments and other services.
Find out what the law says about who is considered the parent of a child.
Why is parentage important?
Parentage is important because only parents have to pay child support. Parentage may also be an issue in Family Court matters when there is a dispute about who a child lives or spends time with.
How can a disagreement about parentage be settled?
- Relying on a presumption of paternity
- DNA testing
- A court making an order saying that the parties are the parents of the child
When is a person said to be the parent of a child? (Presumption of paternity)
There are some cases where the Court and other agencies, such as Child Support - Services Australia and the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, will accept that a person is the parent of a child without any other evidence. This includes:
- when a man was married to the mother and the child was born:
- during their marriage
- within 44 weeks of the marriage ending by death or annulment
- when a man lived with the mother (but they were not married) at any time from 44 to 20 weeks before the child was born.
- when a man is on the birth certificate as the father or has signed something (such as a statutory declaration) saying he is the father.
- when a court has made a statement in the past that the man is the father.
If a woman gives birth to a child after artificial conception then she is considered to be the parent even if the child is not biologically hers.
The de facto partner or husband of a woman is considered to be the father of her child if he agreed to the artificial conception.
The de facto same sex partner of a woman is also considered to be the parent of a child that her partner gave birth to following artificial conception, if she agreed to the artificial conception.
If the father's name is not on the birth certificate or he refuses to admit he is the father can I still seek payment of child support?
Yes. If the other person says that they are not the father but you believe they are, you can apply to the Family Court for a declaration that the person is the father. You may also need to ask for an order that you, the other person and the child go for DNA testing.
You should try to see if the person will agree that he is the father or have voluntary DNA testing before you apply to the Family Court.
What if I do not think I am the father of the child?
If you are considered to be the father of a child you must show evidence to prove that you are not.
To do this you will have to ask for an order from the Family Court and you will need to show evidence that can prove you are not or may not be the father. This can be called 'rebutting the presumption'.
DNA testing is usually the best evidence. You will need everyone involved to agree to the DNA testing or, if they don’t agree you will need a Court order.