How To Get A Court-Ordered Paternity Test

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In family law matters where a child’s parentage must be established, a court-ordered paternity test may be required. A paternity test is a DNA test which can be helpful in settling legal disputes involving child support, inheritance or a child’s living arrangements.

A request for a court-ordered paternity test typically comes about because the requestee will not submit to testing and the requestor must escalate the request through legal proceedings.

Which parties can seek a court-ordered paternity test?

Court-ordered paternity tests can be requested by the following:

  • the child at the centre of the matter may request a paternity test if they are a teenager or adult offspring;
  • the mother of the child to whom the matter relates can request a test in order to establish the identity of that child’s biological father;
  • a man who is believed to be the biological father of a child can request a court-ordered paternity test to either confirm or refute paternity;
  • the legal guardian of a child under their care may request also a paternity test on behalf of that child; and
  • the lawyer or other representative of a party to the dispute may request a paternity test on behalf of their client.

Entities including certain government agencies and courts may also request a paternity test if the results of the test can be used to resolve a legal matter, or where parental responsibilities or entitlements will be determined through the outcome of the test.

Can a party refuse a court-ordered paternity test?

A party can refuse to be tested, however, the Court will not look favourably upon their decision. A party’s decision to refuse a test may also influence a judge’s decision, which could result in negative or adverse conclusions being made. The absence of test results will force the court to rely on the only other available evidence, and the court may, for example, assume that a man is the child’s biological father if he does not agree to be tested.

Refusing to undertake a test may also result in court penalties or sanctions such as being found in contempt of court.

Are court-ordered paternity test results legally binding?

In Australia, the results of a court-ordered paternity test are legally binding. The results will only be made known to the parties to the matter, but they can be used as evidence in the proceedings. The court may use the results to make decisions about matters including child support and other financial obligations, parental responsibilities and visitation rights.

If necessary, the test results can be used to commence the process of amending official records and documents, including updating a birth certificate.

Despite the results being legally binding, under certain circumstances, they can be challenged in court. For example, if it is found there have been lab errors or if other relevant information becomes available.

Do children have a say in matters where paternity tests may be court-ordered?

In Australia, the court considers the best interests of the child and their welfare as the primary concern when it comes to family law matters.

Prior to making the order, the court will ensure that paternity testing is absolutely necessary, so as to protect the child from undue harm or distress.

If it is thought that the paternity testing process might cause harm or distress to the child, the court can make additional orders to safeguard the child, including protective measures such as keeping the child’s personal and genetic information confidential. Counselling and psychological support services can also be made available to the child.

Depending on the age of the child, they may have a say in a matter where a court-ordered paternity test is being sought. Older children may be asked about how they feel about the test and what the results may uncover if they are of an age and possess a level of competency about how the test results will be used to settle the matter.

It is possible for a child representative to be appointed as a means to protect the rights and interests of the child during legal proceedings.

If you have requested a paternity test but the party will not comply, you should engage the assistance of a family lawyer in Cairns who can help you to seek a court-ordered paternity test.


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