Guideline 9 – parentage

Guideline 9 – parentage

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) may make a grant of legal assistance to seek or oppose a finding of parentage by a court, or to seek an order for parentage testing if:

  • VLA’s Child Support Legal Service or some other appropriate service cannot assist (see below) and:
    • either party denies that the male party is the child’s father
      and
    • the male party’s whereabouts are known
    or
  • a finding of parentage is sought for child maintenance or child support matters and:
    • a child support service or liable parents information service cannot assist
      and
    • there is good reason to believe that the other party has the capacity to pay child maintenance or child support for the child.

However, if the person seeking a grant of legal assistance denies he is the father of the relevant child, then VLA will not provide a grant of legal assistance unless he:

  • gives VLA adequate reasons to support his denial (see below)
    and
  • agrees to be parentage-tested.

The following are examples of ‘adequate reasons’ to support a denial of parentage:

  • there is good reason to believe the male party is infertile
  • the male party had no contact with the mother during the likely period of conception because he was interstate or in custody
  • there is good reason to believe the female party had other sexual partners during the likely period of conception.

The applicant for legal assistance must seek assistance for parentage testing from VLA’s Child Support Legal Service or a community legal centre in the first instance.

VLA will not make a grant of legal assistance to a lawyer unless the applicant for legal assistance is unable to obtain appropriate assistance from VLA’s Child Support Legal Service or a community legal centre, or there are compelling circumstances (for example, the practitioner is also acting for the applicant for legal assistance in a parenting matter).

Applicants for legal assistance who are found by a court within the last 12 months to have contravened a Federal Circuit Court or Family Court of Australia order without reasonable excuse will not be eligible for a grant of legal assistance under this guideline or will have their grant of legal assistance terminated.

Assistance for parentage testing is usually conditional

Usually, VLA will only make a grant of legal assistance for parentage testing on condition that the person requesting assistance seeks an order from the court for the costs of the testing. However, if the other party to the proceedings is also receiving a grant of legal assistance, this condition will not be imposed.

Usually, VLA will provide a grant of legal assistance if either:

  • the person seeking assistance cannot rely on a presumption of parentage
  • the person seeking assistance needs to rebut a presumption of parentage.

Parentage applications connected to issues about with whom a child should live or spend time

Usually, if the person seeking a grant of legal assistance can otherwise demonstrate they are significant to the care, welfare and development of the child, VLA will not provide a grant of legal assistance for parentage applications that are connected to issues about either:

  • with whom a child should live
  • with whom a child should spend time.

Examples of where VLA will not usually provide a grant of legal assistance for a parentage application in cases where the dispute is centred on with whom a child should live or spend time are:

  • The male party lived with the child for several years before separating. He doubts that he is the biological father of the child and does not intend to pursue a parenting order that the child spend time with him unless a parentage test confirms that the child is his.
  • The male party was the primary carer for the child during the relationship. He seeks a parenting order that the child live with him. The mother’s affidavit alleges the male party is not the biological father.

Examples of where VLA may provide a grant of legal assistance for a parentage application in cases about with whom a child should live or spend time:

  • The child is three months old. The mother is refusing the male party’s request that the child spend time with him. The mother alleges that the male party is not the biological father.
  • The male party has not spent any time with the six-year-old child for the past three years. The male party now wishes to spend time with the child again. The mother alleges that the male party is not the child’s biological father.

VLA's Child Support Legal Service

VLA has a Child Support Legal Service to help eligible parents who have legal problems in relation to getting or paying child maintenance or child support.

The Child Support Legal Service regularly visits VLA offices and most major regional centres. The service may also help people by telephone.

The Child Support Legal Service can help eligible people by:

  • giving advice
  • preparing documents
  • representing people in court.

For more information see Child Support Legal Service.

Community legal centres

The following community legal centres provide a similar child support service: