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Paternity: who’s the father?

Date posted: 9 August 2019

Our Sarah Colley reports on an interesting case which considered whether a child [‘C’] should be told that the person believed to be his biological father [‘AB’] was not, and also whether the identity of his biological father should be disclosed to him.


The parties AB and the mother of C [‘CD’] were married in 2003 and CD gave birth to C some time later. During the marriage, CD was having an affair with ‘X’. Once the parties separated, AB heard rumours that C was not his child. DNA testing then took place which established that AB was not C’s biological father. CD then admitted to her affair and the belief that X was C’s biological father.


AB issued several proceedings against CD including financial remedy proceedings; proceedings under the Queen’s Bench Division to claim back money from CD spent on C; breach of confidence proceedings in the Chancery Division; and Children Act 1989 proceedings for a Child Arrangements ‘Live with’ Order to be heard with these proceedings.


AB was clear that he wished to remain involved in C’s life and be a central figure. CD was agreeable to this.


AB sought for C to be informed that he was not his biological father and to be told that X was his biological father. CD was opposed to this and said that C would not understand what having two fathers would mean and that a period of time should pass before he should be told.


C was made a party to these proceedings and had the benefit of a Guardian and representation. The Guardian recommended that C be told about his paternity now and that he should also be told at the same time about X.


The matter was heard before Mr Justice Cohen who agreed that C should be told as soon as possible that AB was not his biological father. The Judge took into account the fact that wider family members were aware of the situation and that there was a risk that C could hear about matters from someone else which would be hugely damaging for him.


The Judge stated that the issue regarding informing C of X’s identity was more difficult to consider. CD had stated that X was unaware of the proceedings and had no knowledge of C’s paternity. The Judge was clear that he would want to know the answers to questions such as whether X accepted paternity; whether X was agreeable to submitting to DNA testing; and whether X wished to have any involvement with the proceedings and with C, before considering whether C should be informed of X.


In light of the above, the Judge stated that C should be informed of both matters together and a letter to X seeking answers to the above points was prepared. The matter was listed before 16th August 2019 for further consideration.


As an aside, AB raised concerns about CD taking C on holiday to India as there were suspicions that X resided there and that CD would introduce C to X. AB was also concerned that CD would retain C in India. CD gave an undertaking to the Court that she would not introduce C to X and pledged her London flat as security for C’s return to England.


A final interesting point is that the Judge raised with AB the inconsistency of him bringing a case against CD for reimbursement of monies spent on C when he claimed that he loved C and wanted to play a full part in his life. AB said in Court that he would abandon this claim.


If you have a Child Arrangements or private law issue you need assistance with please contact Sarah on or 020 8885 7966, or for an appointment call Mavis on 020 8885 7986.