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Prenatal paternity suit – legal information

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Michael Decker

Modern technology allows the father’s identity to be tested as early as during the pregnancy. The prenatal paternity test is generally used for identifying the father of the fetus even before the birth. The test’s results may grant eligibility for alimony or child support, legal status in Israel by virtue of birth (Jus soli) and other rights. Under which circumstances will the courts order the test to be performed? We shall discuss this and other legal issues in the matter below.

The law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex and Brosh, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, specializes in family law and the regulation of personal status vis-a-vis the Ministry of the Interior. Our office boasts attorneys with a great deal of proven experience in advising and representation in matters such as a prenatal paternity suit, a claim for minors’ maintenance, custody arrangements and more.

Legal background with regard to the paternity suit proceeding

Prenatal paternity test

The purpose of a paternity suit, filed in the Family Affairs Court, is to obtain a declaratory judgment regarding the identity of the father. The declaration may involve requiring the defendant to pay for the minor’s maintenance, or regulating the child’s legal status in Israel, pursuant to Section 4 of the Citizenship Law, which stipulates that whoever is born to a mother or father who are Israeli citizens is an Israeli citizen by birth.

The father is also entitled to sue; for example, when he wishes to be involved in the life of his children (by means of visiting times and decisions as to the manner of their education, residence etc.). The claim may also be filed by mutual consent; for example to regulate the status of a child who was born in Israel to a mother who is a foreign citizen and an Israeli father, when both parents wish to regulate the status of the newborn as an Israeli citizen and cooperate with each other vis-a-vis the Population and Emigration Authority.

The decision is made on the basis of evidence, and a paternity test has decisive weight. This DNA test (“a tissue test”) is a genetic test, which is taken from the man, the woman and the children involved in the suit.  The courts will usually issue an order to conduct this test in order to confirm or rule out the father’s identity.

The order is issued by virtue of the Genetic Information Law. It should be noted that in cases where it is feared that the child might be declared a mamzer (bastard) under Jewish law, an order to conduct a test will rarely be issued. For further reading about paternity suits see another article published on our office’s website.

Common reasons for conducting a prenatal paternity test

As we said, a paternity test is designed to confirm or rule out the father’s identity when this is in doubt. It will sometimes be necessary to conduct the test as part of a paternity suit. For example, in cases where a mother who is a foreign citizen is in a relationship with an Israeli, and the couple wants the child to be declared an Israeli citizen after the birth. This is also the case in situations where the parents are in a casual relationship or where there is no relationship between them and it is likely that it will be necessary to conduct the test in order to decide the fate of the children after they are born.

Even though in the past it was only possible to conduct the test after the child had been born, now the Family Affairs Courts are likely to order that the test be conducted during the pregnancy. For example, in the case of a Chinese citizen who was living in Israel and was in a relationship with an Israeli, the couple asked the Family Affairs Court to conduct the test. The Attorney General was of the opinion that they should wait until after the birth. The Court did not agree with his position and held that in the light of the clear benefit of conducting it at the present time (because its results would decide whether the fetus would be recognized as an Israeli citizen when it was born) it should be allowed. Therefore, the welfare of the child constitutes the main consideration in the decision.

The types of paternity tests presently available

Prenatal paternity testThere are a number of methods of conducting a prenatal paternity test.  One method is by means of amniocentesis (which as a rule may be performed during the fifth month of pregnancy). This test is traditionally designed to rule out any genetic defects in the fetus, but it may also be used to determine the father’s identity.

Another method is by means of a “chorionic villus sampling (CVS)” test, and this may generally be performed at an earlier stage (during the fourth month of pregnancy).  Both these methods are used in medical laboratories in Israel, but the law considers them to be invasive. Therefore a court order is required in order to conduct them.

There is another method, on the basis of blood samples. However, it should be noted that this is not used in Israel, and it is only possible to conduct it by taking blood samples in Israel and sending them to laboratories abroad. The court will not issue an order to conduct the test, and its results will not be admissible as evidence in court. Even though there are other benefits of conducting the test privately, it is important to take this into account.

Contact an attorney specializing in family matters

In this article we have presented you with important information about a prenatal paternity suit and the possibilities of conducting a paternity test during the proceeding.  In view of the necessity of the court’s intervention in order to conduct a test which will allow the acquisition of civil and financial rights to the fetus after it has been born, it is important not to carry out the process independently.  At the law firm of Cohen, Decker, Pex and Brosh you can find attorneys experienced in the field who will provide you with professional legal assistance and guidance for the purpose of making informed decisions in this complex matter.

Prenatal paternity test

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