Before DNA testing was developed, the Courts had to base paternity decisions on assumptions about human behaviour that were imprecise and inconclusive.
Advances in DNA testing have changed the way that Courts approach this issue. It is no longer necessary to take a blood sample and all that is required is a mouth swab. Now that DNA testing can determine parentage with great certainty, this is generally treated as a medical rather than a legal issue.
If you have not signed the birth certificate you should refuse to do so until testing is carried out. Once you sign the certificate this creates a presumption that you are the father of the child. The Child Support Agency (CSA) would then accept the application for child support on the basis that you are the father of the child and assess you to pay child support.
If that occurs you can apply to a Court for a declaration that you are not a parent of the child pursuant to Section 107 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act. An order for parentage testing can be made pursuant to section 69W of the Family Law Act.
You should notify CSA as soon as possible that you have made the application so that the payments to the mother can be suspended. This does not cancel the payments and CSA will require you to continue paying but they will not transfer the payments to the mother while the test results are being done. If you are found to be the father of the child you will still have to pay the child support at a later date. If you are not found to be the father overpaid child support must be repaid by the mother rather than CSA. It is therefore important to resolve this issue quickly to avoid difficulties with overpayments.
If you and the mother can agree to the test you will not need a court order. You can find a laboratory by searching the internet but you should ensure that they are accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities.
If you would like further information please contact Andrew Crooke a member of Murdoch Lawyers Family Law Team on 07 4616 9898.
Prepared by Andrew Crooke
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