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Paternity Law

Paternity is defined as the state of being someone’s father. Australia’s family law system helps people resolve legal aspects of the family relationship issues. Generally, the paternity of a child becomes a legal dispute for two main reasons: child support and contact. In the first instance, a woman may seek child support for the biological father of the child; or a man may refuse to pay child support on the basis he is not the child’s biological father. Secondly, a man may want to have paternal rights of a child he believes to be his. The most common way of resolving these disputes is through DNA testing.

Legislation

According to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), a man is assumed to be the child’s father if he:

  • Was married to and living with the child’s mother when the child was born
  • Has signed a document acknowledging he is the child’s father
  • Cohabited with the child’s mother in the ten months before the child was born
  • Is acknowledged on the child’s birth certificate

If paternity is an issue in a matter before the Family Court, either parent may ask for a declaration of paternity. If a man wanting to deny a presumption of parentage he must prove that he is not the child’s biological father. This is achieved through DNA paternity testing.

What Is A Paternity Lawyer?

A paternity lawyer deals with disputes arising regarding whether a parent, most commonly a man, is the parent of a child. They will usually arise under a request for child support or contact. If a parent is requesting a declaration of paternity, the court will make an order if it is satisfied the relationship exists. To determine this, they will consider the parents’ marriage status, documentary evidence and living arrangements. In some circumstances the court will employ DNA testing along with parenting applications as evidence.

A paternity lawyer works within the field of family law and has expertise in advice and representing clients looking to defend or gain a declaration of paternity. They will complete the ground work including the filing of required documentation, any representation and organising DNA testing.

Why Do I Need A Paternity Lawyer?

If you are seeking to make a declaration of paternity or are someone who is needing to defend an action, you are best to engage with a lawyer. Paternity lawyers understand the legal process and they know the best way to argue your matter in a quick and effective manner. Disputes around paternity often end up in the court system, a paternity lawyer will be able to represent you or may engage a barrister for the process.

What Will A Paternity Lawyer Provide?

The goal of a paternity lawyer is to provide an effective and agreeable outcome to the paternity dispute. They will provide you general advice and will be able to answer any issues or concerns you may have. You should expect a paternity lawyer to advocate on your behalf in any court proceedings whilst taking care of any required submissions to the court.

How Much Will A Paternity Lawyer Charge?

Depending on your dispute, paternity lawyers will usually charge by the hour after an initial free or fixed-cost consultation. If the dispute ends up in court, there will be additional court fees along with costs associated with DNA tests and declaration applications. DNA tests cost approximately $800 and are paid by the person who wants the results as evidence in their case. In some cases, the matter will be straightforward and will cost less, this is subject to how cooperative the parties are.

Hourly rates and Court fees

The cost of a Paternity Lawyer will vary based on the scope of the work. Small issues likely to be addressed quickly will cost less. For matters that will need to go to the relevant Court or Tribunal, there may be additional fees involved, particularly as this work takes time. These types of matters may also involve obtaining documents and negotiating with the other party.

What can a Paternity Lawyer legally charge?

Legal costs can rise very quickly, especially in litigation. However, this is sometimes hard to avoid when work is being done by a lawyer on an hourly basis. Where fixed-fees are not offered by the lawyer, you should expect to be invoiced on a monthly basis with a time period within which you are required to make payment. Lawyers are required to adhere to the rules outlined in the relevant acts. For example, in NSW and Victoria, this is the Legal Profession Uniform Law 2014.

Lawyers who do not comply with these rules can face disciplinary action from the law society of their State.
Lawyers are required to provide to their clients a document called a ‘costs disclosure’ if your costs will be higher than $750.00. This document will outline how costs will be calculated in relation to your case. Also be mindful that costs are divided into ‘professional costs’ and ‘disbursements’, and you will be expected to pay for both. Professional costs are the costs of the actual work done by the lawyer, whilst disbursements cover incidentals such as court filing fees, telephone calls, photocopying charges – amongst other things.

What if I don’t agree with the costs?

You have the right to request an itemised bill that will outline how much time was spent on each task in relation to your matter, and how this adds up to the fee you’re requested to pay. If you wish to dispute the cost, you can make a complaint to the The Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) and they will investigate the matter and may allocate a costs assessor. You can also take further legal action in the Courts if you feel you have been unfairly charged.