Presumption of paternity
The children of parents who are married to each other are presumed in law to be the child of their mother's husband.
Section 88 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 amended the Status of Children Act 1987 so that the presumption that a woman’s husband is the father of the child no longer applies if the child is born more than 10 months after they separated.
The children of parents who are not married to each other may have to prove paternity in order to get their maintenance or inheritance entitlements. This isn't necessary if the father acknowledges paternity or is named as the child's father on the birth certificate. If he acknowledges paternity, he can agree to have his name added to the birth certificate at a later date.
If the alleged father disputes paternity, he may agree to a medical paternity test. If he doesn't agree to this, it is up to the court (usually the District Court) to decide on paternity.
Where someone refuses to give a sample, the court can draw whatever conclusions it thinks proper from the refusal. For example, if the alleged father refused to give a sample, the court may take the view that he was afraid the tests would indicate he was the father. If the mother refused to give a sample, the court may take the view she was afraid the test may prove the named man was not the father.
Appeals from the District Court are heard in the Circuit Court.
Paternity testing is carried out using blood, hair or swabs from the mouth. You can either contact the laboratory yourself (they will ask you to select a GP to undertake the tests), or you can go to one of the specialist agencies that will organise the test for you. It is important to be aware, that you cannot use the test results to have the father's name placed on the birth certificate without his consent.
If a father wants to carry out a paternity test to establish legal paternity in order that it would stand up in court, then all 3 parties (mother, father, child) would need to be tested, so the mother would have to agree to this test.
Children must be 3 months old before blood testing can be undertaking for paternity testing purposes. However, a mouth swab of the child can be taken from birth and used for the test. For identification purposes, photos are required of those giving samples.
Declaration of parentage
A person or persons may apply to the Circuit Court for a declaration stating that they are or are not the father, mother or parents of a child. Similarly, a child (as an adult) can apply for a declaration stating that a person or persons named is or is not their father, mother or parents.
Costs of paternity testing vary, depending on the type of test selected. (The most common methods of testing are a blood test, or oral (mouth) swab for the mother, father and child). Paternity testing is not part of the public health system and you will have to pay for any tests conducted.
Depending on the circumstances of the individuals involved, the court may make an order for costs, and the parent(s) may be required to make a contribution to the overall cost.
How to apply
Further information on paternity testing (including a list of laboratories and specialist agencies) is available from Treoir. You can download their leaflet on Establishing Paternity/DNA Testing (pdf) here. If you wish to have a paternity test conducted yourself, you should contact the laboratory (they will ask you to select a GP to undertake the tests), or you can go to one of the specialist agencies that will organise the test for you.
Information on applying to court is available on the Courts Service website.