Posted by familylaw on 1st February 2022
Last updated 31st January 2024
What happens when a father named on a birth certificate is identified as not being the biological father?

What rights do biological fathers have if they are not on the birth certificate?  In this article paralegal Melissa Mitchell explains about Parental Responsibility and how it works in the UK.

A father acquires Parental Responsibility for a child if one of the criteria in the Children Act 1989 is satisfied. This is generally if the father is married to the mother, or if they are named on the birth certificate. But what happens if at a later date, it comes to light that the father with Parental Responsibility is not the biological father? Do they lose Parental Responsibility and does the biological father gain it and replace him on the birth certificate?

It might seem logical that a straight swap of these two parties’ rights and responsibilities would happen, but that is not the case.

Parental responsibility

Let’s first look at the father who currently has PR. It is possible for the mother, or the biological father, to apply to have the father initially registered, removed from the birth certificate. This can only happen if sufficient information is provided to prove that the person named on the birth certificate is not the natural father of the child. This can be a DNA test report (though must come from a legally recognised provider) or a court Order. The details of the registered father will be removed from the section stating they are the father and moved into the margin where they will always remain as they were originally registered.

Does this mean that the new father will automatically be entered in his place?

The answer is no. An application to re-register the birth would need to be made. The original registered father would still remain in the margin on the birth certificate, but the biological father would be registered as the natural father.

If a mother is unwilling to consider DNA testing, an alternative option would be to apply to the Court for a Declaration of Parentage. The Court would order DNA testing to be carried out by a legally recognised provider and if paternity is proved, the Declaration of Parentage declares who the parents are. The General Register Office then have the discretion to issue a replacement birth certificate naming the biological parents.

Does this move Parental Responsibility from the original father registered, to the biological father?

No. The original father registered would still retain Parental Responsibility as this will only cease to exist if the Court orders it.

What would the biological father need to do to seek Parental Responsibility?

This would only happen if the mother and the biological father sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement. The mother and father have would have to be in agreement and it must be sent to the Family Court to be recorded.  If the mother doesn’t agree then the father can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.

If you need help, please call 01392 421 777 for appointments in Exeter.  We can assess you for legal aid and in some emergency situations, grant you legal aid in our initial meeting. Even if you don’t qualify, your initial appointment is always free.

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