Australian Supreme Court-Great Thinkers or….

Paternity fraud case lost

Norrie RossNovember 10, 2006 12:00am A MAN who supported two children he wrongly believed he had fathered has lost his final legal bid to prove he was a victim of paternity fraud.Liam Magill was devastated yesterday when the High Court ruled he had no legal basis to claim compensation from his ex-wife. Mr Magill was originally awarded $70,000 from his former spouse Meredith after a DNA test proved he was not the biological father of two of their three children. However  the Court of Appeal stripped him of the compensation award. In refusing his appeal against that decision, six High Court judges said there was no legal duty in a marriage to tell the truth. The loss has left Mr Magill with a huge legal bill that the disability pensioner will be unable to pay. Outside the High Court in Melbourne, Mr Magill, 55, looked stunned. He thanked his lawyers and the public for supporting him through his seven-year legal battle. His partner, Cheryl King, said the court marathon had taken its toll and they were both very disappointed. Ms King said Mr Magill had to accept he would get no compensation and that child support payments for two children he did not father would never be refunded. “Emotionally it destroyed him when he found out these two children had been fathered by another man,” Ms King said. “Liam is just devastated, and this loss is another blow to him. “He has no acknowledgment of any description of what happened. Not from the Child Support Agency, who refused him a refund of child support payments, or the High Court that refused him compensation.” The Magills married in 1988, separated in 1992 and divorced in 1998. They had two sons and a daughter but a paternity test in 2000 proved he did not father the two younger children. Meredith Magill later admitted having had an affair with another man. Three members of the High Court held there was no legal action for deceit when it came to representations about paternity made between spouses. Three other judges held that only in exceptional cases could such an action succeed and Mr Magill’s was not one such case. Chief Justice Murray Gleeson said Mr Magill assumed he was the father of the two children and his wife’s silence on the issue did not amount to misrepresentation. “Without doubt the appellant’s wife deceived him but the hurtful deception was in her infidelity, not in her failure to admit it,” Justice Murray said. Mr Magill’s lawyer, Vivien Mavropoulos, said the case had highlighted fundamental social issues. “They are the importance of truth in relationships and marriage, a child’s identity, heritage and parentage, and the responsibilities that go with that,” Ms Mavropoulos said. She urged courts, Parliament and society to tackle the issues raised in the case. 

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