Paternity and parentage are not the same thing in legal terms. However, as topics they are often mixed up with one another.
- Paternity is a statement, acknowledgement or proof of being a child’s father. It is specifically about fatherhood or the status of being a father.
- Parentage is confirmation of a person being a child's mother or father. It is about parenthood or the status of being a parent.
How paternity is treated legally
If a father acknowledges paternity, the parents can agree to have the father's name added to the birth certificate.
Where a couple is married, Irish law presumes that the husband is the child’s father, unless proved otherwise. If a couple is married but separated, this presumption does not apply if the child is born more than 10 months after the couple separated.
If parents are not married to each other there is no legal presumption of paternity unless the father's name is on the birth certificate.
This means that a father who is not married to the child’s mother and not named on the birth certificate may need to prove paternity in order to apply for guardianship, custody or access to the child.
Children of parents who are not married to each other may also have to prove paternity in order to get their maintenance or inheritance entitlements.
Declaration of parentage
Anyone can seek an order declaring that a certain person is their mother or father. This is called a Declaration of Parentage order. It can be sought even where the parent is deceased.
If a declaration of parentage order is made, the Civil Registration Service may be directed to register, or re-register the birth and issue a birth certificate.
Most applications are made in the Circuit Court. Order 59 of the Circuit Court Rules sets out the process that must be followed. You might want to get legal advice to better understand what's involved.
What happens if paternity or parentage is disputed?
If paternity or parentage is in dispute, the court may order that DNA testing be carried out. The court may also direct who is to pay the cost of the testing or that costs must be shared.
DNA testing is conducted by specialist agencies inside and outside the country. You will find a choice of testing centres online. Where you go for testing is your personal decision. You might want to seek the advice of your GP or health clinic, or get legal advice to better understand what's involved.
Depending on your situation, applications can be made to the District Court or the Circuit Court.
District Court forms required include:
- Form 61.1: Notice Of Application For Direction For The Use Of Blood Tests
- Form 61.4: Notice of intention to call witness - Status of Children Act, 1987
Circuit Court forms required include:
- Form 37H: Notice Of Motion For the Taking Of A Bodily Sample
- Form 37J: Notice of Intention To Call A Witness
Donor Assisted Human Reproduction (DAHR) - Declaration of Parentage
The Children and Family Relationships Act, 2015 came into effect on the 4th of May 2020. Among other things, the Act clarifies the legal position and legal parentage of children born from DAHR procedures.
From the 4th of May 2020, the birth mother and the intending parent (the mother's spouse, civil partner or cohabitant) of a donor-conceived child born as a result of a DAHR procedure can now register with the HSE Civil Registration Service as parents. How this happens depends on the date the DAHR procedure was performed and not the date of the birth of the child.
For a child conceived after the 4th of May 2020, the DAHR procedure must have been undertaken in a DAHR facility in Ireland using a traceable sperm donor. Both parents can be registered with the HSE Civil Registration Service as normal. The clinic will need to provide a certificate confirming the details of the procedure.
For a child conceived before the 4th of May 2020, the DAHR procedure must have been undertaken in a DAHR facility in Ireland or abroad using an anonymous or traceable sperm donor. In this case, only the birth mother will be registered as the parent. A Declaration of Parentage is required from the District Court to enable the intending parent (the person intending to be the other parent) to be registered on the child’s birth certificate at re-registration.
An application can be made to the Circuit Court by an individual to get a Declaration of Parentage where parents are no longer in a relationship. Order 59 of the Circuit Court Rules sets out the steps to be followed when applying to the Circuit Court.
Most applications are made in the District Court. The District Court application process is outlined below.
Who can apply?
An application for a declaration of parentage may be made by:
- the mother of the child, and
- the person who was an "intending parent" of the child.
“Intending parent” means a person, other than the intending mother of the child who, at the time the DAHR procedure was performed, was aware of the performance of the procedure and undertook to care for, and exercise responsibilities towards, any child born as a result of the procedure, as if he or she were the parent of the child. The child to whom an application for a declaration relates will be named as the respondent to the application.
Both the mother and the intending parent are joint applicants.
How to apply
Order 58 of the District Court Rules sets out the steps to be followed when applying to the District Court for a declaration of parentage.
An application may be made in the court area in which either applicant lives or works. If the applicants live or work outside of Ireland, the application can be made to the Dublin Metropolitan District Court.
Both applicants must complete an application form. The application must be grounded on an affidavit sworn by each applicant and where necessary other affidavit evidence in support of the application, which must include and verify:
- The facts grounding the statement that the child was born using the donor assisted human reproduction procedure prior to the 4th of May 2020.
- Where the procedure was carried out outside of Ireland, the affidavit must verify that the person who performed the procedure was authorised to do so under the law of the place where the procedure was performed and the law providing for such authorisation.
- That the second applicant, the intending parent, was, at the time of the procedure the intending parent of the child.
- That the second applicant, the intending parent, confirms that he or she consents to the making of the declaration of parentage.
The original application form, affidavits and any exhibits, must be lodged in the court office not later than seven days before the date fixed for the hearing.
District Court Application Forms:
- Form 58.54 - Notice of Application for a Declaration of Parentage - Children & Family Relationships Act 2015, Section 21
- Form 58.49 - Statement of Arrangements for Child
Re-registration of a birth
If the order is granted, you can re-register the birth of the child to include the name of the second parent. More information is available by contacting the HSE Civil Registration Service.