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How partners are handled in the reformed system
Presuming and establishing paternity
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Presuming and establishing paternity

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Summary

To be responsible for paying child support, a person must be judged to be a "parent". This is complicated, and the rules for judging men to be parents are summarised here. (The rules for female NRPs are simpler, because maternity is not in doubt in the way that paternity can be in doubt).

Throughout the process, if the man proves to be liable to pay child support, the liability dates from about the time the form is sent. Disputing paternity does not change the total amount to be paid. If it delays the first payments, this results in arrears later. If the man proves not to be a parent, he will not be required to start paying, and if he has already paid, the CSA can repay any money paid so far. There have been cases where the CSA has repaid lots of money.

Sometimes the CSA can "presume" that a man is the parent of the child concerned, make a maintenance calculation, and require payment to be started immediately. The purpose of presumption is to get money flowing as quickly as possible, even though there is a possibility that the CSA will have to repay it later.

Important examples are where the man was married to the mother at any time between conception and birth, or where he is named on the birth certificate. The same applies where the man accepted being the parent on the form sent by the CSA.

Other examples include where a man has already been declared to be a parent by a court, or as a result of his wife's fertility treatment, or as a result of surrogate motherhood by another woman, or by formally adopting a child. These cannot be overridden by paternity tests. They won't be discussed further here.

In other cases, the CSA cannot presume parentage. If he disputes it the CSA will use a paternity test ("DNA test") to resolve the matter. If he is the parent, he has to pay for the test, otherwise the CSA pays. If he pays for the test in advance he pays a reduced amount (which will be refunded if he is not the parent), otherwise he pays the full cost of the test (if he is the parent).

Even once a maintenance calculation has been made, it is still possible to resolve disputes, although he must pay in the meantime. If the parent with care agrees, then a paternity test can be used by the CSA. But otherwise it will be up to a court, not the CSA, to resolve the matter. At any time either the mother or the alleged father can apply to a court. Usually the court will require a paternity test. If a man refuses to take a paternity test, the court can draw its own conclusion, typically the obvious one. A court decision is binding on the CSA.

A court can refuse to order a paternity test in the interests of the child, but that is becoming less likely.

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References

Paternity:
Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 (sections 15 & 82 & 83)

Page last updated: 17 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003