In the Name of the Father: A Few Thoughts on Contested Paternity

A Few Thoughts on Contested Paternity

If you think the biological father reveals on Jerry Springer are emotionally charged, you ain’t seen nothing.

Paternity tests are contested every day in family court, and when it comes to child support, there can be powerful financial interests for demanding a test or refusing to take one. But before any support is paid, the question of ‘Who is the father?’ needs to be resolved. DNA testing provides the answer quickly and with little inconvenience. Testing is also relatively inexpensive and new procedures limit the intrusion upon privacy. 

So, what happens when the assumed biological father refuses to consent to a test?

In Alberta, the Family Law Act (Page 18) sets out steps to take: 

  • A person disputing paternity may apply to the court for a declaration on their status as biological father; 
  • The court may make an order granting permission to obtain blood tests, DNA tests, or other appropriate tests from any person, and for that person to submit the results to the court; 
  • No DNA or blood tests can be performed on a person without consent. However, if the party named in the order refuses consent, an adverse inference may be drawn, meaning the court may rule the person as father due to a lack of necessary paternity evidence; 
  • Once the court has determined the biological father, it may then make an order on the issue of child support, if the application has been made; 
  • If new evidence of a substantial nature becomes available after determining paternity, the court may confirm their earlier decision, set it aside, or make a new ruling. 

A number of factors are weighed in the above considerations: the issues that could arise when families are disrupted by strangers claiming paternity; the need for fathers to be held accountable for child support; a child’s desire to know genetic markers influential to their health and wellbeing. On balance, the family courts have consistently found it in the best interests of all involved to engage in a process that reveals paternity. 

Are you facing contested paternity in your family law proceeding? Call the Coach My Case Legal Navigator to ensure the name of the father is not in question