Have you ever wondered why some non-residential fathers neglect their parental responsibility? Is it because they are uncertain whether they indeed fathered the child or is it mere irresponsibility? UCHIZI CHINULA, our guest writer, gives us some insight.
Benjamin Franklin said the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I beg to differ because I think three things in life are certain; death, taxes and your maternity.
It is important to consider how the issue of paternity can be of importance in relation to child maintenance. There are sometimes situations where child maintenance is not paid to a mother because the father disputes paternity.
Martha (not real name) told me that the man who was responsible for her pregnancy denied responsibility. Her daughter was born late last year. Although the child looks like the father this has not compelled him to support the child financially.
Where the paternity of a child is an issue, the Child (Care, Protection and Justice) Act 2010 states that an application may be made to the child justice court to determine the parentage of the child. This application may be made by the child, the parent of the child who includes mother and father, a guardian of the child, a probation officer, a social welfare officer or anyone who has an interest as the court finds fit.
Because this list is not exhaustive, it means that almost anyone can make an application to court for the determination of parentage of a child. For example, grandparents may also fall into the category of guardian or those with interest if the court deems fit. It is very important to determine the parentage of a child because this automatically places an obligation on the alleged father to take care of their child as discussed in the last article. Where there is a dispute regarding parentage it is beneficial for everyone concerned to have it determined to avoid trauma in the event that the person alleged to be the father is in fact not the father.
The act says an application to court for an order to determine the parentage of a child may be made before the child is born; or before the child is sixteen years of age or after a child is sixteen years of age.
The act further says an application for the determination of parentage after the child has turned sixteen may only be made with special permission from the child justice court or the High Court.
If parentage needs to be determined because there is an inheritance or succession at the heart of the matter the application for an order for determination of parentage shall be made within three years after the death of the mother or father of the child.
This provision is very important because it in effect protects children who are born out of wedlock. Children born out of wedlock are entitled to a share of their parent’s property as long as their parentage is determined.
In deciding the issue of the parentage of a child there are several things that are considered as evidence of parentage by the child justice court. These are: The father’s name (if any,) entered on the register of births; if any customary ceremony was conducted by the alleged father on the child; if the alleged father refuses to have a medical test done; if it is public knowledge that he is the father and any other matter that the child justice court may consider relevant.
An example of a relevant matter here may be the fact that the child was born looking exactly like the alleged father or bears similar features to the alleged father. A determination will be made by the court based on this evidence whether the alleged father is the father of the child.