Dads’ FAQs: DNA testing

16 October 2012

DNA TESTING (DISPUTED PATERNITY)

Questions we have been asked include:

‘Can DNA be tested on the NHS?’

‘Can I have number for DNA testing?’

‘My girlfriend is pregnant and says I am the father. I don’t believe her. I want to know’

Paternity testing is not to be undertaken lightly; the impact can be huge, not only for any father or father figure, but for the child and any brothers and sisters, as well as the mother and grandparents. Think about whether the test is in the child’s best interests and bear in mind that the impact can have an effect on those involved for the rest of their lives. Your GP is a useful first port of call. He or she can talk to you about what is involved in a test and may be able to help you to arrange to speak to a counselor so that you are fully prepared for all outcomes – including one you may not want.

Some methods used by certain companies – such as mouth swabs to collect cells carried out at home – are not legally defensible. There are certain procedures that must be adhered to for tests that are rigorous enough to be used in family law matters. Under the Human Tissue Act (2004) it’s illegal to carry out a DNA test without the full consent of all parties involved, unless directed by a court in certain circumstances. Therefore, in most cases it will be necessary for you to gain written consent (where a child under 16 is involved, the person with Parental Responsibility may consent on their behalf). If a child is old enough to understand the issues involved (and is under 16) they should be consulted to see whether the test is in their best interests.

Where to get tested?

The NHS does not provide DNA testing. You will need to pay for it privately – the cost will vary depending on the provider. It is advisable to use a company with a good reputation for having a high quality service. While the information about DNA testing on the Government website is strongly biased towards determining parentage to support claims for child maintenance (click here) it does include useful information about the process.

The Ministry of Justice’s list of approved DNA testing companies is here.

Support for you

Whatever the situation that has brought you to feel the need to have a paternity test, it is likely that you experienced some emotional turmoil along the way. If you wish to discuss the issues, check out Dad.info, a useful website with forums and advice on subjects that matter to dads and father figures. Also, don’t forget to ask your GP to point you in the direction of counsellors – for yourself and the other family members who may be affected by the results of a paternity test.

Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.

 

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