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Dublin: 12°C Friday 18 September 2020

New law to clear up paternity confusion

Joan Burton will bring in legislation that will end the presumption that a husband is the father of all the children born during a marriage.

Minister Joan Burton
Minister Joan Burton
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

LEGISLATION IS TO be rolled out to enable a mother to prove that her husband is not the father of all the children born during the marriage.

Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, gave information on the new law to Deputy Denis Naughten, who asked her in a recent parliamentary question when she planned to introduce the legislation.

The legislation will be in line with paragraph 4.12 of the Report on Family Relationships by the Law Reform Commission. This part of the report contains a recommendation that a statutory declaration, made by the mother of a child and accompanied by evidence to the effect that she has had no contact with her husband within 10 months of the birth of her child, and that he is not the child’s father, “should be sufficient to rebut the legal presumption that he is the father of all children of the marriage”.

Minister Burton explained that under current legislation, section 46 of the Status of Children Act 1987 provides for a legal presumption that a man in a subsisting marriage (or in a marriage that subsisted up to ten months before the birth of a child) is the father of all children of that marriage.

Under the Civil Registration Act 2004, a woman who is in a marriage can rebut the presumption of paternity by providing to the registrar of births either:

  • A statutory declaration of the person or each person to whom the mother was married at some time during the period of 10 months prior to the birth that he is not the father of the child, or
  • A statutory declaration of the mother that she has been living apart from the person who is or who formerly was her husband during the period of 10 months ending immediately before the birth of the child by virtue of a decree of divorce, a decree of divorce a mensa et thor o, a decree of nullity or a deed of separation, or
  • A court order which names another man as the father of the child.

Minister Burton commented:

This and other proposals contained in the report that are relevant to the Civil Registration Service are currently under active consideration and it is expected that I will be in a position to introduce legislation on this, and other aspects of civil registration, in 2012.

Read: New law may make it compulsory to include father’s name on birth cert>

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