Parallel proceedings in different countries in respect of the same subject matter are generally discouraged by judges. However, in one case, the High Court ruled that England is distinctly the most appropriate forum in which a cross-border paternity dispute should be resolved.
A British citizen, aged in her 30s, claimed to be the daughter of a multi-millionaire Turkish businessman who had died in his homeland. She alleged that she was the offspring of a clandestine affair between him and her mother. She said that she was unaware of her true father’s identity until she reached her teens, believing herself to be the child of her mother’s husband.
She had since changed her name by deed poll to that of the man she claimed was her biological father and said that his paternity had been conclusively proved by DNA testing. If she could establish that he was her father, she would be entitled to about one fifth of his estate, which was said to be worth about $5 million.
Following the businessman’s death, she had launched proceedings in Turkey. About a month later, she did the same in England. Both sets of proceedings essentially raised the same issue of fact – the identity of her father – but sought different relief and remedies. The personal representative of the businessman’s estate, one of the daughters of his marriage, asked the Court to dismiss, or at least stay, the English proceedings pending determination of the paternity issue by a Turkish court.
The Court unreservedly accepted that only a Turkish court could make decisions in relation to the distribution of the businessman’s estate. On the other hand, only an English court could grant the woman a statutory declaration of parentage under Section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986.
Only armed with such a declaration would the woman be able to achieve what was important to her – the re-registration of her birth so as to identify the businessman as her father. Rejecting the personal representative’s application, the Court found that England was the more appropriate forum in which to decide the question of whether the businessman was the woman’s natural father.