Disputing parentage

If the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) contacts you to ask you to pay maintenance and you deny you’re the father of the child, this is called ‘disputing parentage’.

Denying you are the parent

If you doubt that you are the child's parent, or if you are being wrongly named as the father, you should let CMS know immediately.

Denying parentage is not a way to avoid the responsibilities of being a parent. If you are found to be the father and have not been paying child maintenance, you may have to pay a large amount of arrears.

Disputing parentage before child maintenance is worked out

Before CMS works out child maintenance, they will always ask you as the possible parent of the child, whether you accept parentage. If you deny this, CMS will look at the reasons and ask you to give evidence to show why you think you are not the parent.

CMS will also tell the mother that the possible parent has denied parentage, and ask her to provide evidence to support her statement.

CMS will use all the evidence given to decide whether the possible parent is the actual father or not.

Disputing parentage after child maintenance is worked out

If you deny being the parent of the child after the child maintenance has been worked out, you will have to pay it until you can prove that you are not the parent.

You must provide CMS with “conclusive evidence”.

This could be:

  • DNA test results from an approved company
  • a court declaration to say that you are not the child’s parent – this is called a ‘declaration of non-parentage’

If CMS doesn’t get conclusive evidence, they will continue to believe you are the parent.

If you do provide conclusive evidence that you are not the father, CMS will normally refund the child maintenance payments made from the date you told CMS you were not the parent.

How the Child Maintenance Service sorts out disputes about parentage

CMS has three ways of sorting out disputes about parentage.

These are:

  • presumed parentage
  • DNA testing
  • referring the dispute to a court

Presumed parentage

By law, CMS can presume you are the father of the child, if:

  • you are named as the parent
  • there is a particular reason for believing so

This allows CMS to work out how much child maintenance should be paid and will send a letter to you, as the person named as the child's parent, telling you what you must pay. This arrangement will continue until you can produce evidence to show that you are not in fact the child's parent.

When CMS can presume parentage

The CMS can presume that you are the father for different reasons.

These include:

  • being married to the child's mother at any time between the conception and the birth of the child (if the child has not since been adopted)
  • being named as the father of the child on the child's birth certificate and the child has not been adopted since the birth certificate was completed
  • refusing to take a DNA test
  • taking a DNA test that shows you are the parent
  • adopting the child
  • being named in a court order as the parent of a child where the child was born to a surrogate mother (a woman who has carried the child for another person)
  • being the person who, by law, is said to be the parent of a child born as a result of fertility treatment (under Section 27 or 28 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990)
  • being declared to be a parent of a child in a 'declaration of parentage' made by a court and the child has not since been adopted (in Scotland this is called a 'declarator of parentage')
  • being found or judged to be the parent by a court, even if parentage was not the central issue of the case

DNA testing

To identify if the person who is denying being the child’s parent, a DNA test can be arranged. Both the person named as the parent of the child and the child’s mother need to take a DNA test.

The person named as the potential parent must pay for the test. If the test shows they’re not the parent, they will be refunded the money they paid for the test.

Referring the dispute to a court

In some cases, such as if a child is born as a result of fertility treatment, a DNA test may not be right and CMS cannot presume the parentage. In these cases, CMS may apply to a court and ask them to decide.


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