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Declaration of Parentage

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What is a Declaration of Parentage?

This guide explains what a declaration of parentage is, what you can do to resolve disputes about whether a man is the child’s father, and how to apply to the court for a Declaration of Parentage in accordance to the family law act, which definitively states who are a child’s actual legal parents.

A legal definition

A declaration of parentage formally states whether, under English law, a named person is another person’s legal parent.

The law makes certain presumptions regarding paternity. The presumption is that a man is the child’s father if:

  • he and the child’s mother were married at any time between the child’s conception and his/her birth, or;
  • he and the child’s mother have both acknowledged him to be the father, and;
  • he is registered on the child’s birth certificate as the father.

However, this presumption can be disproved on the balance of probabilities. A declaration of parentage is a key way of achieving this.

Where there is a dispute concerning who a child’s father is, the court can be asked to make a declaration of parentage court order. The court can either issue a declaration of parentage or one of non-parentage. Their decision is legally binding.

Do we have to resolve the dispute through the courts?

As with many family issues, it is much preferable to settle matters outside court if possible and family mediation can be one way of doing this. Where there is doubt about who a child’s father is, voluntary paternity testing (a DNA test) can be carried out. It is important to make sure that the testing process is carried out by a legally recognised provider.

You must be of legal age (18) to be able to consent to a DNA test. However, an adult cannot be made to give a DNA sample against their will. Appropriate consent is required on behalf of a person who is under 18. This must be given by someone who has parental responsibility for him/her.

Although testing laboratories usually require 3 samples (one from the mother, one from the alleged father, and one from the child), a test can be carried out using samples from just the child and alleged father. This may give a less reliable result though.

The law does not specify that each person who has parental responsibility must consent to the child’s sample being taken. Each laboratory will form their own judgement on precisely what consent they require.

Who can make an application for a Declaration of Parentage?

There are no restrictions. Anybody can apply for a Declaration of Parentage.

How to apply

The application form to apply for a declaration of parentage is form C63: Apply for a declaration about whether a named person is the parent of another named person.

This form must be sent to the nearest family court to the child’s residential address.

The declaration of parentage court fee is £365. If the applicant has a low income or receives certain income-based benefits, they might be able to apply for exemption from the fee using form EX160 .

Where the court decides it needs to establish paternity to make a ruling concerning child arrangements, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) can arrange DNA tests and fund them .

The DNA testing process

Where the Family Court requires a DNA test to be carried out for confirmation of a child’s parentage, the alleged father will be have to have an appointment for a DNA sample to be taken. This usually takes the form of a swab from the inside of the cheek. A Cafcass officer supervises the procedure and confirms the father’s identity. He will need to sign a form of declaration and consent.

The child will need to be brought by the person who has care and control of them so they can have their DNA sample taken. A Cafcass officer will also supervise this and will need to see proof of identity. Again, the person who has care and control will be asked to sign a form of declaration and consent.

The testing laboratory tests the samples and produces a report. This will either find:

  • there is 99% positive proof of the alleged father being the biological father or
  • there is 100% proof that he is not the father.

The court will usually expect to receive the report within six weeks of the court order.

There is more information about completing a DNA test on the Cafcass website.

What happens if one of the adults refuses to provide consent?

The court cannot force an adult to give a DNA sample. This can prejudice the testing process. The court, however, can draw what is known as an adverse inference – i.e. assume that person has something to hide – from a refusal. They can still make a declaration on either parentage or non-parentage even in the light of this refusal to cooperate.

The court can, however, order that the child’s sample must be taken. This can be done even where the person who has care and control over the child refuses consent, as long as the court considers it to be in the child’s best interests that the sample is taken.

Effects of Declaration of Parentage

  • The Declaration of Parentage declares who the child’s parents are. This can then be presented to the General Register Office and they have discretion about whether the father should be named on the birth certificate of the child.
  • Even though the true father’s name has been included on the birth certificate as a result of a Declaration of Parentage, this does not automatically grant parental responsibility to the father. He should enter into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the other people who have parental responsibility. Alternatively, the parent can make a Parental Responsibility Order application to the court to grant him parental responsibility (declaration of parentage form). You can find more information in our article on Parental Responsibility.
  • A Declaration of Parentage could help improve relations between two parents who have separated. It is formal recognition of the fact that the child in question has two parents and they both have a role and responsibilities to promote the child’s welfare.

What if the birth certificate names someone who isn’t the biological father?

Occasionally, someone who is not the child’s biological father will be named as father on the birth certificate. This can happen because the mother’s husband is automatically named on the birth certificate as father, although it may come to light later that someone else is the biological father. The Declaration of Parentage form issued by the court can be presented to the General Register Office . They will issue a replacement birth certificate which will name the biological parents. The original information is always shown as was given on first registration, but there will be a note written in the register’s margin explaining that the named man’s details were incorrectly recorded. The note will be dated with the date when the correction was made.

There is a specific form on the for making an application to take off the wrong father’s name on a birth certificate.


The subject of parentage is a common topic for discussion in family mediation and it is usually linked to the father wanting to spend time with the child. All these agreements can be managed through the mediation process and your mediator will be able to give you both information about the steps you need if you want to make decisions legally binding. Our blog has lots of articles on common issues parents face.

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