1. Do fathers have parental rights over illegitimate children? If an illegitimate child is born without acknowledging the father during the birth registration, can the father claim the parental rights later? Is consent from the mother needed? Is any proof (e.g., DNA reports) needed?
The father of an illegitimate child does not automatically enjoy parental rights, but he needs to apply to the court claiming for a declaration deeming him as the father and entitling him to parental rights under section 3 of the Guardianship of Minors Ordinance (Cap. 13). The paramount consideration is the best interest of the child and the court has identified the following facts in consideration of the application:
- the father’s degree of commitment to the child;
- the state of the father’s current relationship with the child and
- his reasons for making the application.
A mother’s refusal to consent to the applicant or her hostility towards the father of the illegitimate child would not on its own be a reason to refuse the application. The father could claim the parental rights even if the child is born without acknowledging the father during the birth registration. However, in contested cases where the mother does not consent to the application, the burden is on the applicant (father of the illegitimate child) to prove parentage. The court often order proof of parentage by means of scientific evidence such as a DNA paternity test in proceedings involving paternity disputes, which would be the most direct and relevant proof beyond doubt, and any party refusing such a test would face drawing of adverse inferences from court unless cogent reasons are given to persuade the court otherwise.