Amendments to paternity determination laws approved
Parliament yesterday approved in second reading amendments to the Civil Code (Amendment) Bill which provides new mechanisms regarding the determination of paternity of children by the courts.
Introducing the second reading of the Bill, Justice Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici said there were 166 cases where the paternity of a child were contested in Maltese courts between 2007 and last September.
The highest number of such cases, 57, was presented in 2007; 42 were presented in 2008; 37 in 2009 and 30 this year by the end of September. This amounted to between eight and 12 per cent of the cases before the Family Court.
Dr Mifsud Bonnici said that as a result of the amendments, the delivery of the court sentence would be facilitated.
Blood tests were not 100 per cent proof of paternity. DNA tests were more reliable. He said the reality of this scientific genetic testing had to be acknowledged on determining the paternity of a child born in wedlock but from a different biological father.
Dr Mifsud Bonnici said the Bill introduced a new mechanism through which children were given the right to know who their real parents were.
The stigma against women was being removed and the Bill introduced the right of mothers to institute cases on the paternity of their children where there was an element of doubt. Previously such cases could only be instituted by the husband.
Cases of paternity had to be instituted within six months from when the child or the father concerned came to know of the facts about the birth. The Civil Code was being amended also because a sentence on who could proceed in such cases in Malta had been delivered by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The amendments included the possible impeachment of the filiation of a child born in wedlock by interested persons. This regarded the husband’s physical impossibility of cohabitation or adultery by the wife before the gestation period.
Judicial demands through a sworn application contesting the declaration of paternity could be made by the natural father of a child born in wedlock and also by the mother of the child. This sworn application had to be filed within six months from the birth of the child or as provided for by the Family Court in its voluntary jurisdiction. In such cases evidence to be brought before the court could include genetic testing.
Another amendment provided procedures for any change of surname with proceedings instituted against the Director of the Public Registry if the person concerned wanted to continue to use the surname by which he was known.
Concluding, Minister Mifsud Bonnici said that these amendments established a balance between the needs of society and individuals.
The rest of the debate will be carried tomorrow.