Declaration of Parentage

A Declaration of Parentage by the English Court declares whether a named individual is the legal or biological parent of another person under English law.

What is the significance of a Declaration of Parentage?

An application for a Declaration of Parentage is one of only a limited number of ways to resolve issues about biological and legal parentage, parenthood and birth registration under English law.

Legal parenthood is important because it creates legal relationships between a parent and a child under English law and between wider family members (e.g. grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins). You can read more about legal parentage and parenthood here.

Clarity and understanding about biological connections between a parent and child can inform personal identity, traits and characteristics as well as medical and genetic history and family relationships.

An accurate birth record, in the form of a British birth certificate, is also a matter of public interest in ensuring accurate public records.

When might I need a Declaration of Parentage?

A Declaration of Parentage by the English Court declares whether a named individual is the legal or biological parent of another person under English law. It can also trigger the re-registration of a British birth certificate. It can be used in a range of situations, including:

  • Issue or dispute about biological and legal parentage following a direct-to-consumer DNA test (e.g. following an at-home DNA test through AncestryDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage).
  • To resolve biological and legal parenthood or rectify a birth certificate where a parent is deceased.
  • To re-register a birth certificate following adoption to record a birth parent.
  • To rectify or resolve a dispute about an individual or child’s birth certificate (e.g. whether a birth certificate should be re-registered to add or remove a person’s details).
  • Dispute about a child’s biological or legal father or second legal parent (this can raise complex legal and evidential issues about conception arrangements, personal relationships, DNA testing law, status and consent in modern family cases).
  • Problems with completion of patient HFEA consent forms at UK fertility clinics (e.g. missing or errors), calling into question the legal parentage of a non birth parent for their child.
  • Dispute about paternity/legal parentage and financial provision for a child.

What sort of issues are associated with an application for a Declaration of Parentage?

Applications for a Declaration of Parentage can involve complex legal issues concerning fertility and family law in the UK and international law (e.g. where parties are resident abroad). They can also encompass a range of associated legal and emotional issues and fill gaps relating to:

  • Personal identity, ancestry and legacy (e.g. establish the truth and fill in gaps about an absent parent).
  • Genetic and legal relatives and family trees.
  • Medical history and genetic origins.
  • Acquisition of citizenship and nationality (e.g. to support EU citizenship applications or other foreign nationality).
  • Acquisition and exercise of parental responsibility for a child.
  • Financial and inheritance rights.
  • Contact, care and upbringing of a child.
  • Re-registration of a British birth certificate to add or remove an individual’s name.

Applications for a Declaration of Parentage can lead to unexpected discoveries about conception, maternity and paternity and unknown siblings and genetic relatives. They can produce information that challenges established family history and introduces new narratives associated with fertility treatment, egg and sperm donation, adoption, unplanned pregnancy, secret love affairs, failed relationships and loss. In some instances, they can also uncover fertility fraud or even gamete and embryo mix-ups at fertility clinics.

An application for a Declaration of Parentage can therefore have significant and wide-ranging legal, practical, financial and emotional implications for individuals, parents, children and families that can require careful management and expert legal navigation of English family law, international legal aspects and assisted reproduction law.

What is the legal process for a Declaration of Parentage?

An application for a Declaration of Parentage in the English Family Court is made using a C63 Court Form. It is a bespoke application made under section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986. Each case will be determined on a fact specific basis by the Court, making it important to prepare an application for a Declaration of Parentage carefully with supporting evidence. Depending upon the individual circumstances of the case, applications for a Declaration of Parentage can be complex and robustly contested.

An application for a Declaration of Parentage can be made at any point in life (involving both minor and adult children), provided their is sufficient personal interest and connection to England and Wales, and appropriate legal and evidential basis for the application.

The English Family Court will carefully consider all relevant circumstances and will only make a direction for secure chain of custody DNA testing or a Declaration of Parentage (or other family order) if it is appropriate in the overall circumstances of the case. Whilst the English Family Court cannot compel a party to undergo a DNA test, it can then draw inferences if a party refuses to comply with a direction for DNA testing in determining the case.

The court process can take 6 –12 months (although actual timescales vary depending upon the complexity of the case and court availability).

If you require legal advice, assistance or representation in relation to making or defending an application for a Declaration of Parentage contact us by telephone or email. Please also see our published Judgments and publications below in relation to a Declaration of Parentage.

How we can help

Our legal services include:

  • Legal packages
  • Bespoke legal advice tailored to your situation, needs and wishes
  • Preparation of legal documentation
  • Legal support and representation in court proceedings

Package One

Declaration of Parentage following UK fertility treatment where HFEA consent forms were not completed, lost, contained errors – legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice to support people who need to rectify and secure legal parentage for a non-birth parent after fertility treatment at a UK clinic.

Package 2

Declaration of Parentage following a direct-to-consumer DNA test - legal review

This provides initial expert legal advice to support people who need to resolve their legal and biological parentage and/or rectify a British birth certificate following a direct-to-consumer DNA test.

Leading Cases

Louisa Ghevaert has dealt with numerous leading legal parenthood and parentage cases in the UK, find out more here. These include the following cases involving applications for a Declaration of Parentage in the English Family Court:

X v Y [2022] EWFC 77, representing the applicant in a complex application for a Declaration of Parentage in the English High Court following an ancestry DNA test and a 35-year quest to find her biological father to resolve issues relating to her identity and her birth certificate. In granting the application, the court highlighted the fundamental importance relating to identity, status and parentage and the re-registration of birth certificates to provide properly maintained records not just for the benefit of individuals but for the public as well. In doing so, the court navigated complex legal issues and drew inferences from the respondent’s refusal to undergo DNA testing.

In the matter of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (Case V) [2016] EWHC 2356 (Fam), obtaining a Declaration of Parentage in the High Court for a woman in a same-sex relationship for a child conceived through fertility treatment at a UK fertility clinic licensed by the HFEA.  The HFEA Consent Form WP was missing from the clinic file. The case for the first time gave guidance on the practice of making interim costs orders in favour of patients to fund litigation and access to justice following errors in the completion of consent forms at UK fertility clinics.

Other Declaration of Parentage Cases

In Boudewijn v Johnson and another [2022] EWFC 142 the applicant Amy Boudewijn was adopted at birth. As an adult she successfully sought a declaration of parentage to confirm the identity of her deceased biological father and amend her birth certificate so that she could obtain Jamaican citizenship. The court granted the declaration of parentage, ruling there was sufficient evidence for the man Amy claimed to be her father to be declared as her father.

Y v Z [2022] EWFC 157 (Fam), concerned a child (X) who was born via IVF fertility treatment at CARE Fertility Clinic. Due to administrative errors, the legal parentage of the father was in doubt. Specifically, neither the father nor the mother had completed HFEA forms PP or WP that secure the legal parentage status relating to a child born through fertility treatment. The English Family Court granted the declaration of parentage relying on the completion of an internal fertility clinic form instead.

Re L, Re M (Declaration of Parentage) [2022] EWFC 38 concerned applications by two women who had been adopted as babies and whether decades later they could obtain declarations of parentage to resolve their family ancestry, confirm the identities of their biological fathers and rectify their original birth certificates to add the name of their birth father. The English Family Court went on to grant their applications ruling that the birth parent of the adopted child remains as a matter of fact the child’s biological, or natural, parent but is not the child’s legal parent by reason of the grant of an adoption order.

News and Commentary

Click here to read more about our media and commentary work in relation to family and fertility law, policy and practice.

“Declaration Of Parentage: Will This Resolve My Personal Identity, Legal And Biological Parenthood?” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 29 December 2023).

“Declaration of Parentage: When Might I Need One?” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 13 July 203).

“Sperm Donor Fraud: One Year On From Netflix’s Documentary ‘Our Father’” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 14 May 2023).

“Declaration of Parentage Applications: The Significance of Legal and Biological Parenthood” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog, 14 March 2023).

“Our Father, DNA testing & what do we mean by ‘parentage’? (by Louisa Ghevaert for Fertility Help Hub, a fertility lifestyle platform, 24 August 2022).

“Declaration of parentage: the importance of identity, status and parentage” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 19 July 2022).

“DNA testing, parentage disputes and the law” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 15 June 2022).

“Declaration of parentage: confirming family ancestry and biological parentage following adoption” (Louisa Ghevaert Associates blog, 8 June 2022).

“Netflix’s “Our Father”: DNA testing, paternity disputes and questions about biological and legal parentage”, (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog 18 May 2022).

“Declaration of Parentage, resolving family ancestry and questions about parentage and birth certificates”, (Louisa Ghevaert Associates’ blog 20 November 2021).

“Direct to consumer genetic testing: a family and fertility law perspective”, (Louis Ghevaert Associates’ blog 28 July 2020).

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