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PATERNITY: M v F and H (Legal Paternity) [2013] EWHC 1901 (Fam)

Date:25 JUL 2013
Law Reporter

(Family Division, Peter Jackson J, 5 July 2013)

When the mother and her husband married they were informed that their chances of conceiving were low due the husband having a vasectomy. The 2-year-old child was conceived after the mother met the biological father over the internet where he had advertised his services as an unpaid sperm donor. The central issue was whether the child was conceived as a result of artificial insemination (as the father says) or via natural intercourse (as the mother says). The former would result in the legal father being determined by the terms of the HFEA 2008 while the latter would make the biological father also the legal father. The mother applied for a declaration pursuant to s 55 of the Family Law Act 1986 that the biological father was also the legal father and for financial provision under Sch 1 of the Children Act 1989.

Both the mother and father were found to have been untruthful, devious and manipulative. Both lied extensively during their evidence. However, the mother's account was to be preferred given the level of detail she provided regarding their relationship and the consistency of that evidence. The father's evidence was inconsistent and lacked conviction.

The judge concluded that the child was achieved by natural intercourse and as a result the biological father was also the legal father. The court would notify the Registrar General of the declaration and the birth would be re-registered, although that would not confer parental responsibility, the father was entitled to apply for PR in the future. Directions were agreed for the financial application to proceed before a district judge.

The father's application to prohibit disclosure of any information about the case was refused. In balancing the interests under Arts 8 and 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 this was not a case in which it was appropriate to make an order of that kind. There would be no real effect on the welfare of the child if the parties spoke publically about the proceedings although they were discouraged from doing so.

In relation to costs, while the conduct of both parties had been reprehensible, the father bore the lion's share of responsibility for proceedings happening at all. From an early stage he asserted the child was conceived via artificial insemination and that he was not the parent. The mother's husband was entitled to his costs from the father as he had behaved entirely properly during proceedings. The father would pay the majority of the mother's costs, reduced by one quarter to take into account the mother's own misconduct.