Understanding Paternity Fraud: A Guide for Men and Women

Dealing with paternity fraud can be a tough and emotional time for both individuals and families.

We have put together this guide to provide a better understanding of paternity fraud, breaking down the important details and providing useful insights and information to help you make your decision.

Our guide aims to improve your knowledge around paternity fraud, the legal consequences, and proactive measures for prevention.

Understanding Paternity Fraud

Paternity fraud involves the deliberate misrepresentation or deceptive practices concerning the identification of a child’s biological parent.

This usually transpires when a mother intentionally provides inaccurate information regarding the paternity of a child, thereby inducing a man to wrongly assume the role of biological father, contrary to factual circumstances.

There are a couple of common scenarios that we encounter in this regard:

Misattributed Paternity

This is when a woman knowingly or unknowingly falsely identifies a man as the biological father. The common reasons are often due to an affair, divorce, or social stigma.

Our Founder Roger Terrell is a renowned expert in paternity fraud, who has worked on several high profile paternity cases in which a marriage had broken down and the ex-husband ordered DNA tests after hearing rumours about the paternity of the children.

One case in particular disclosed that each child was fathered by a different man and resulted in the ex-husband being awarded £25K in damages after suing his ex-wife for deceit.

Concealment of Previous Relationships

This usually happens when a past relationship has been concealed, leading the man to believe he is the biological father.

Assisted Reproductive Technology Fraud

This occurs in cases involving fertility treatments or artificial inseminations when a woman conceives using donor sperm, but intentionally tells her partner that he is the biological father.

The Legal Aspect

It is worth noting that paternity fraud is not considered a crime in England and Wales. Rather it is considered as civil fraud, which comes under the umbrella of deceit rather than illegal fraud.

This means that any court proceedings brought against the fraudulent party must be made through the civil courts.

Paternity fraud is a comparatively new area of claim, which although not illegal, is certainly considered as ‘deceit’.

The five ingredients of deceit are as follows:

  • A representation made by words or conduct.
  • That the representation must be untrue to the knowledge of the maker at the time the representation was made.
  • The maker must make the representation by fraud either deliberately or recklessly in the sense that they could not care whether the representation was true or not.
  • The representation must be made with the intention that it should be acted upon the Claimant.
  • It must be proved that the Claimant acted upon the fraudulent representation and thereby suffered damage.

If a case ticks one or more of the aspects above, a potential claim for damages arising out of the tort of deceit and/or fraudulent or reckless misrepresentation relating to paternity.

If you succeed on liability, on the balance of probabilities i.e. it is more likely than not that your ex-partner deceived you, then the question of damages will be considered. Damages will fall into three categories:

1. Damages for deceit
2. Damages for mental anguish
3. Special Damages

It is important to understand the nuanced processes when dealing with paternity fraud, and having a good family solicitor can make this process all the easier.

The Impact & Consequences of Paternity Fraud

Emotional & Psychological Impact

The revelation that a father who has provided care and affection to a child is not the biological parent is a challenging moment. The emotion of betrayal can be overpowering during this difficult time.

Often, there is a profound sense of loss as the individual grieves the relationship they thought they had with the child, having a huge impact on their mental wellbeing.

The age of the child at the time of this revelation plays a significant role in influencing their emotional wellbeing too. It can potentially impose a substantial impact, leading to feelings of confusion and triggering an identity crisis.

These effects can endure over time, affecting elements such as self-esteem, future relationships, and mental health.

Financial Implications

Paternity fraud carries significant financial implications for all parties involved. These consequences encompass potential inheritance disputes and the financial strain associated with conducting DNA testing to establish accurate parentage.

The financial ramifications are far-reaching and may have enduring effects on the financial stability of those affected.

Inheritance Implications

Beyond immediate financial considerations, paternity fraud introduces complexities in matters of inheritance. If a child is perceived as the legitimate beneficiary, rightful beneficiaries may be unjustly deprived of their entitled inheritance. This circumstance often precipitates legal conflicts, thereby compounding financial strain on all involved parties.

Obtaining DNA tests to understand the intricacies of parentage entails significant expenses. These tests are essential for establishing or refuting claims of biological parenthood, and the associated costs accumulate swiftly.

This added financial burden compounds the challenges for individuals already contending with the emotional upheaval induced by paternity fraud, rendering their circumstances even more arduous.

As our society navigates the intricacy of paternity fraud, ensuring that individuals involved in this complex situation receive the necessary support and resources is crucial.

How Can Paternity Fraud Be Prevented?

Determining the biological father is essential when there are doubts about paternity. A non-invasive prenatal paternity test (NIPT) checks the baby’s DNA in the mother’s blood during pregnancy, giving accurate results early on without any risk to the baby.

If doubts emerge after the child has been born, postnatal DNA testing, which involves samples from the alleged father, child, and, if necessary, the mother, is widely accepted, highly accurate, and valid in legal proceedings.

To effectively settle disputes, legal paternity testing orders may be required. These court-ordered tests guarantee the use of scientifically sound methodologies and hold legal weight in cases where paternity is contested.

The reliability of paternity testing relies on factors such as proper sample collection and adherence to quality standards. Accredited laboratories follow strict protocols to minimise the risk of errors.

Together, these testing options and legal measures contribute to accurately establishing biological parentage and addressing concerns related to paternity fraud.

Talk to a Family Law Solicitor

Paternity fraud is a tough situation when someone is given the wrong information about if their child is biologically theirs, causing a lot of emotional, financial, and legal headaches. If you are in this situation, it is a good idea to talk with a seasoned family law solicitor.

At Terrells LLP, we have over thirty years’ experience in paternity fraud, and our team has extensive knowledge handling all kinds of legal issues and have worked on various high profile cases in recent years.

We are fully regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, have Family Law Advanced Accreditation and are members of Resolution, the UK Family Law Association.

If you require any further information about our range of services, or you would like to talk to an expert member of our legal team, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us today.