If you are uncertain about whether you are a child’s biological father, it is possible to seek a paternity test to clear this question up. Of course, it is imperative that any confusion in relation to paternity should not be shared with a child until there is some definitive understanding of the result of testing. It goes without saying that much damage can be done by unnecessarily disrupting a child’s understanding of their world.
Paternity testing is the process of testing the DNA of two individuals to ascertain whether one of those individuals is the biological child of the other, and requires bodily samples (usually via mouth swabs) to be taken from the child and the father. Paternity testing should be carried out at accredited laboratories to ensure the results are accurate and can be used for legal purposes if required.
Ideally, raise your concern with the mother directly in the first instance and ask if she is willing for the child to submit to paternity testing.
In the event, however, that there is no agreement for paternity testing to be undertaken, you can apply to the court for orders pursuant to section 69W of the Family Law Act. There needs to be some reasonable doubt as to the child’s paternity before the court will entertain making an order for paternity testing. This will require evidence to be presented that raises doubt as to paternity, including sexual relationships.
If the court orders paternity testing, an order will usually be included specifying who is responsible for the costs of the test.
Where the court makes an order and the father does not submit to the testing, adverse findings will be made against him and he will be declared to be the father. Similarly, if the mother fails to produce the child for testing, adverse findings will be made that the man is not the child’s biological father.
If the results show findings that the father is not the biological father, there is an automatic right of the father for any child support to be repaid to him. The repayment of child support can be made either as a lump sum or as payment over time arrangement. Failure to repay the child support could result in garnishing of wages, tax returns or, in the most serious of cases, prosecution.