Who’s your daddy?
When a child is born to a married woman, her husband is automatically presumed to be the father unless it is proved otherwise. The burden of proof falls on the person alleging that the husband is not the father and this is usually settled by way of a DNA test to establish paternity.
It has recently come to light that a husband has been awarded £25,000 damages and £25,000 costs by a Court after his wife deceived him into believing he was the father of their two teenage children and he brought them up as such.
It is understood that when the couple’s marriage broke down and they divorced in 2004, the children remained living with the wife and the husband made payments of maintenance to her for the benefit of the children for a considerable period of time. However, suspicions were subsequently raised as to the children’s paternity and DNA tests were Ordered which ultimately proved that the husband was not the children’s biological father.
It is not unknown for claims to be brought for ‘compensation’ for the distress caused to a man who has been led by the mother to believe he is the father, together with the repayment of money spent in support of the children including for their education.
In one particular case in 2007, a man sued his former girlfriend for around £100,000 when he discovered that he was not the father of her 5 year old son, having been led to believe that he was. The Court eventually awarded the man damages of over £22,000 which included £7,500 for the substantial distress caused to him and nearly £15,000 for payments he had made in support of the little boy.
There are potentially three classes of victim in cases such as these:
- The child – who may never know his/her biological father;
- The non-biological father – who has been led to believe he is the father of the child, only to discover later that this is not the case;
- The biological father – who may never be aware that he is the father of a child or, having been informed that he is, has missed out on the opportunity to develop a relationship with that child.
Whilst the above cases have demonstrated the ability of the non-biological father to secure compensation for their own distress once the truth is known, it raises the question as to whether the child or the biological father have redress to the Courts for compensation arising from paternity fraud.