Paternity Orders

Who’s the real father?

Credit: Ceng News

In this article, we’re going to be examining Paternity Orders. From time to time, there may be disputes surrounding the paternity of a child. These may arise in situations where the parents were not married or where for some reason the father’s name has not been entered into the child’s birth certificate.

Presumption of Paternity

The law presumes paternity in certain situations. Section 2 (2) of the Family Law (Guardianship of Minors, Domicile and Maintenance) Act Chap 46:08 (“the Act”) states that :

In accordance with this Act, a man is presumed to be the father of a minor if-

(a) at the time of the conception or birth of the minor or between those times he is married to the child’s mother;

(b) he is registered as the father of the minor under the Births and Deaths Registration Act;

c) he is named as the father of the minor in a paternity order made under section 10 of the Status of Children Act;

(d) he is named as the father of the minor in a paternity order made by a Magistrate’s Court under section 22; or

(e) he has been declared to be the father of the minor by an order made in any country outside of Trinidad and Tobago being an order to which subsection (4) of section 8 of the Status of Children Act applies.

Obtaining a Paternity Order

If none of these statutory presumptions apply to your situation, then you will need to apply to the court for an order of paternity. Such an application can be made at either the Magistrate’s Court or the High Court. Both of these applications will now be considered in turn.

Magistrate’s Court

According to section 22 (2) of the Act, an application for a paternity order may be made by:

(a) by the mother of the minor

(b) if the mother of the minor is under the age of sixteen years by any person having custody of her;

c) where the child has been born and the mother is dead or has abandoned the minor or for any reason is unable to make an application herself, by a parent of the mother, or by a guardian of the minor or, with the leave of the Court by any other person.

This application is made in the form of a complaint to the Court and a summons is then prepared and served upon the alleged father. In practice, when both parties appear before the Magistrate, the Court will direct that the child and the alleged father be sent for what is commonly referred to as a paternity test. The results would then be sent directly to the Court and at the next hearing, the Court will make the appropriate order based upon the results. If the results are negative then that will be the end of it. However, if the results confirm paternity then a paternity order will be made and consideration of custody and maintenance issues may be required. For further information on this see the article below:

High Court

The Magistrate’s Court procedure for obtaining a Paternity Order is simpler and can be dispensed with, in less time. However, for completeness, I will also provide information about the High Court procedure.

In accordance with Section 10 of the Status of Children Act Chap 46:07 :

(1) Any person who -

(a) being a woman, alleges that any named person is the father of her child;

(b) alleges that the relationship of father and child exists between himself and any other person;

c) alleges that he is the father of an unborn child; or

(d) being a person having a proper interest in the result wishes to have it determined whether the relationship of father and child exists between two named persons,

may apply in such manner as may be prescribed by Rules of Court for a declaration of paternity and if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that the relationship exists the Court may make a paternity order whether or not the father or child or both of them are living or dead.

In practice, the applicant would have to file an application supported by an affidavit giving evidence in support of their application. Notice of this application would also have to be given to any person alleged to be the father or mother as the case may be.

Disclaimer: This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as giving rise to an attorney-client relationship.

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Colin Denoon

Colin Denoon is an Attorney residing in the beautiful twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He is a proud alum of the University of the West Indies.