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  • Writer's picturePenn Chambers

Paternity Fraud in the UK

Paternity fraud is a complex topic. It involves two elements but when paternity fraud happens, it very often, if not always, leads to severe emotional trauma for the putative father and even more, the affected children.


I will refer to the legal father as the non-biological person who is mistakenly considered to be the true father of the child or children and refer to the biological father as the true biological parent of the child or children.

 

Criminal Law

The two elements of paternity fraud are:

a) that in the first instance the legal father of a child is incorrectly identified as the biological father; and

b) the reason for the incorrect identification was done by fraud.


Incorrectly identifying the father (i.e. element (a) in and of itself is not a criminal offence and the specific event of paternity fraud (i.e element (b) is not a specific criminal offence either. The parties must rely on the general office of fraud under the Fraud Act 2006:

s2 of the Act says that a person is guilty of fraud if they dishonestly make a false representation, and intends, by making the representation to make a gain for themselves or cause loss to another person.


So, where for example, a mother of a child knowingly misleads a man into believing him to be the biological father of her child a fraud may be committed if he suffers loss as a consequence.


The punishment in the lower courts is usually a fine upto £5,00 and could also lead to imprisonment (at least in theory).

 

Civil Law

Claims for civil paternity fraud must be made within six years of discovery.

The legal father commences a civil action in tort. Tort is a “wrongdoing”. The claim would be for tort of deceit.

In this case, when a mother knowingly tells a man that:

a)      a child is biologically the legal parent's child; and

b)      the mother must know that it is not true.


Proving either of these elements can be very difficult in many cases.


The legal father as the claimant will bring an action against the mother as the defendant and will need to prove that the deceit took place on the balance of probabilities.


The remedies are generally intended to compensate the claimant rather than to punish the defendant.

 

While successful cases have resulted in damages awarded to the victim, including legal fees, there is a moral and emotional toll that often has far more long-term psychological consequences.

 

Navigating the complexities of paternity fraud requires legal expertise. At Penn Chambers, our specialist family lawyers offer support for civil claims, child arrangements, and divorce proceedings. Contact us for guidance on your specific situation.







0207 183 2898


The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute professional advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal, accountancy or financial advice as appropriate on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor, Accountant or Financial Advisor/Mortgage Broker before you embark on any course of action.

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