The issue may be made light of in a number of Hollywood films and modern pop culture, but realistically it is a traumatising experience for all parties involved. We’re talking about paternity disputes and the legal procedures during litigated cases, and it’s not as light a subject as we make it.
Many women in South Africa fall pregnant with only an idea of who the father may be. In these instances, one of two situations may occur. These will be discussed below. However, these situations exclude instances when the mother was married during conception, in which case the father is believed by the court to be the husband unless proved otherwise through blood tests.
“I’m Not The Baby’s Father”
Any man who had sexual intercourse with a woman at the time of conception is believed to be the father of the baby. This is discussed in detail in the Children’s Act, but ultimately it is the assumed father’s responsibility to prove to the court that there is reasonable doubt about the mother’s claim. If he does dispute the findings (the model case of paternity disputes) then further action is taken by the court.
At this point, the maintenance officer may approach the party in question and request that he take a paternity test at a clinic with the mother and the baby. This only gets considered if the man has provided the court with the evidence indicating reasonable doubt. If the party disagrees to do blood tests, the court does not have the authority to enforce these terms, and the man’s legal credibility is threatened. If blood tests are taken, and the man is indeed the father, the court has the authority to instruct the man to pay maintenance.
“I’m The Daddy!”
In these cases, the case is not considered a paternity dispute and the process is pretty straightforward. The father is provided maintenance terms by the court. No tests are requested, leaving any alternative outcomes forgotten until brought up at a later stage or if at all.
In any event, women are advised to approach maintenance court with their grievances so that the matter can reach a settlement. A wiser choice would be to approach maintenance court with the assistance of a family law attorney.