Where parents are married to each other there is a presumption in law that the husband is the father of the child unless the contrary is proved. If parents are not married to each other there is no presumption in law as to who is the father of the child, unless the father's name is on the birth certificate.

Fathers who are not married to the mother of their children and are not named on the birth certificate may need to prove paternity in order to apply for guardianship, custody or access to their children.

Children of parents who are not married to each other may have to prove paternity in order to get their maintenance or inheritance entitlements.

If a father acknowledges paternity he can agree to have his name added to the birth certificate.

What happens when paternity is in dispute?

When paternity is in dispute the court may order that the parties to the case undergo paternity testing before an order can be made. If the court orders that testing be carried out it may also direct who is to pay the cost of the testing. This may be the mother, the alleged father or the costs could be shared. Paternity testing is not part of the public health system and there is no court fund out of which the costs of tests can be paid.

Paternity testing for Ireland is conducted outside the State. You can either contact the laboratory yourself (they will ask you to select a GP to undertake the tests), or you can go to one of the specialist agencies in Ireland that will organise a test for you.

Declaration of parentage

A person can seek an order in the Circuit Court that a certain person is his/her mother or father. This can be done even if the parent is dead.

How to make an application

You can engage a solicitor to make an application on your behalf or you can make the application yourself. You may be entitled to legal aid.

If you choose not to engage a solicitor you will need to contact the Circuit Court office for your county or the District Court office in the area where you live. You will need to lodge the relevant court forms in the court office. Court staff will identify the forms you need to make your application but cannot tell you what to put in the forms. When you have completed the necessary form(s) you must apply to have your application listed before the court. You must also attend in court on the day to make your application.

Court forms

District Court: S.I. No. 93 of 1997: District Court Rules 1997

Form 61.1: Notice of application for direction for the use of blood tests - Status of Children Act,1987 section 38(1)
Form 61.4: Notice of intention to call witness - Status of Children Act, 1987

Circuit Court: S.I. No 510 Circuit Court Rules, 2001

Form 37H: Notice of Motion for the taking of a blood sample
Form 37J: Notice of Intention to call as a witness the person under whose control blood tests were tested etc.

Relevant legislation

Status of Children Act, 1987
S.I. No. 215 of 1988 - Blood Tests (Parentage) Regulations, 1988

Court Rules

S.I. No. 93 of 1997: District Court Rules, 1997: Order 61
S.I. No. 501 of 2001:Circuit Court Rules, 2001
S.I. No. 312 of 2007: Circuit Court Rules (General) 2007