Declaration of Parentage? A Change of Process.

A declaration of a child’s parentage has been an important tool in the armour of the court for a considerable period of time, however it is usually only used in cases where it is necessary for a parent to be added or removed from a child’s birth certificate. This is perhaps most common in unmarried parents, who for whatever reason fail to register the child’s birth together.

An application in that case is usually made by the parent seeking to be added to the birth certificate and most often is synonymous with a parent seeking to spend time with a child and share in the decision making for the a child.

Occasionally, an application is made by the other parent who is on the birth certificate for the child, normally for maintenance reasons although with the progression in DNA testing this has reduced over time as a positive test usually suffices for maintenance.

However, with the implementation of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act declarations of parentage have once more risen in popularity. The main reason for this is that there appears to be an issue with the paperwork which is required at the clinic end of the procedure to ensure that all necessary and legal paperwork is completed and signed by those involved in treatment. The President of the Family Division have recently provided some helpful guidance for those involved in these cases where the parties are agreed for a declaration of parentage to be granted or refused.

Under the law it is required for any judge hearing a case to conduct a proper examination of the facts and to balance these in light of the law. However, it has now been accepted that there are cases which will not require a formal hearing, which saves on costs and time for the parties, where:

  • The application depends entirely on a clinics file;
  • The facts are the subject of a previous judgement;
  • There is no dispute between the parties (i.e. they are asking for the same outcome)
  • Where there has been no intervention by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the Attorney General or the Secretary of State;
  • The parties wish to proceed without a hearing.

This guidance is aimed at assisting those families who are merely making an application to formalise an agreement or an understanding.

If the parents/parties are in disagreement then there will still need to be a formal hearing, as in all other Children Act cases as the Judge will need to decide the facts and outcome for a child if there is no agreement.

If you are affected by this guidance please contact Thursfields’ Family Law Team on 0345 20 73 72 8 or email

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