The Court will typically assume that both parties present before the Court are the child’s parents and the custody dispute involves them. Sometimes, in family law proceedings, though, there is uncertainty or disagreement surrounding the parentage of the child, which can be important not only when applying for Orders in relation to the child, but as well as for issues like child support and the registration of both parents’ names on the child’s birth certificate.
Where doubt may exist in regards to the parentage of the child, the Court may Order that the parent and the child undertake a paternity test. It’s important to note, however, that paternity tests shouldn’t be taken lightly. The Court should tread cautiously in such cases and balance the needs of both parents (in terms of knowing whether or not they are the biological parents of the child).
In addition, the possible negative implications paternity tests (and their results) can have on the parent and/or child must also be considered. The Court has consistently maintained that to make an Order for paternity testing to prove a biological relationship, the paramount consideration is necessarily the welfare of the child. Careful consideration should be given to the reasons for a paternity test request, the basis for this doubt, and the impact the outcome can have on the relationship between the parent and child.
However, before the Court orders a paternity test, there must be substantive proceedings in which paternity is a legitimate issue. The doubt in the mind of the applicant must be honest, unaffected by hatred or malice for the other party. So, seeking a paternity test would not be enough if it is purely to be vindictive or avenge a cheating spouse. Since the child’s best interests are central to any Court decision, both parties are expected to work towards developing a strong co-parenting relationship.
There are two main types of DNA testing. The first is a self-sample test, also often referred to as a ‘peace of mind’ test. This test does not satisfy the legal requirements of the Court as it consists of self-testing, which means there would be no independent verifications with regards to the identity of the persons tested. Hence, this evidence cannot be relied upon by the Court.
The other type of DNA testing is called a chain of custody paternity test, or simply, a paternity test. This form of testing is recognized and accepted as evidence by a Court as it is carried out at an authorized laboratory that is authorized and registered with the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) Australia.
The peace of mind test may suffice if you purely want to determine whether or not the child is yours, and you are the biological parent. But it is recommended that both parties seek the paternity test as the outcome of the test can lead to child support obligations and custody disputes. This may call the need for court proceedings, and therefore a paternity test will be required!