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The term paternity means fatherhood. Paternity testing can be used to establish who a child’s father is. The Family Court will presume that the husband of the child’s mother is the child’s biological father (see Re G (No 2) (A Minor) (Child Abuse: Evidence)  1 FLR 314 at 319).
Where a child’s paternity is in question, the court has the power to:
- Make a direction (order) that scientific tests should be used to work out who the father is (see section 20 (1) of the Family Law Reform Act 1969).
- Direct samples to be taken from either parent, or suspected parent. But this can only be with the parent’s consent (see section 21 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969).
- Direct samples to be taken from the child. This can be done even if a child’s parent/carer does not consent to this if the court is satisfied it is in the child’s best interests for this to take place
If someone does not consent to testing, the court will look at all of the other facts in the case and can reach a decision about paternity taking into account this refusal.
So, if in care proceedings the Family Court thinks it is not clear whether someone is the child’s birth father it may look at making orders for paternity testing. Parents may hear the term ‘putative’ being used when paternity testing is discussed. The term ‘putative father’ just means someone who it is thought might be the child’s father.