DNA testing in disputes over parentage
The Child Maintenance Service (CMS) uses DNA testing if someone claims they aren’t a child’s parent. They interview the person named as the child’s parent and the parent caring for the child. CMS asks them and the child to take a DNA test.
Parenting Terms used by Child Maintenance Service
- The paying parent – the parent who does not have the main day-to-day care of the child and who pays child maintenance to the receiving parent
- The receiving parent- the parent who has the main day-today care of the child and to who the paying parent pays child maintenance
When a DNA test is needed
Both the potential father and the receiving parent need to agree to take the test. Before the child can take the DNA test the receiving parent needs to agree the child can take the test. The child can agree to the test if they're aged over 16.
Arranging DNA testing
CMS uses a specialist DNA testing company to do the test. The DNA testing company will send the possible father an information pack, which includes:
- a letter with details of the case reference number, names of the people who will be providing samples for the test and information on how to arrange an appointment to give a sample
- a booklet about DNA testing
- a list of local doctors who have agreed to take samples
- an appointment form that has to be returned after an appointment, with the doctor chosen to take a sample, has been arranged
- a doctor's letter in case the chosen doctor is not on the list
- a pre-paid reply envelope
When the DNA testing company receives a sample from the possible parent, they send the same information pack to the parent with care.
Paying for the DNA test
CMS expects the possible parent to pay for the DNA test. If the test result shows they aren't the child's father, CMS will refund their money back and pay for the test.
If CMS accepts the possible parent cannot pay for the DNA test, CMS might pay the fee. If the test shows they are the parent, they need to repay the money. DNA test costs can vary. Contact CMS for current prices.
Arranging a private DNA test
You can arrange a private DNA test but CMS will only accept the results if the test has been conducted by an accredited DNA testing provider.
Details of how to apply for accreditation and the application form can be found at: Get laboratory accreditation to carry out paternity tests
DNA test results
The testing company can take 10 days to do a DNA test after they receive all the samples. The results are confidential. The testing company won't tell you the results by telephone. They send the results by first-class post to:
- the possible parent
- the receiving parent
They might need to give the results to a court to help the court make a decision in a dispute.
DNA testing might delay a child maintenance calculation, but it doesn't change the start date.
Refusing to take a DNA test
If a possible paying parent is disputing parentage but won't take a DNA test, CMS presumes they are the parent and they will have to pay child maintenance.
After a dispute is sorted out
If the DNA test proves that the possible parent of the child is not the father, CMS will refund the DNA test fee (if they paid for a DNA test that CMS arranged). CMS will interview the receiving parent to find out who else could be the child's father.
If you are named as the possible father and a DNA test shows you are the parent, you must pay all child maintenance due. This includes:
- any child maintenance not paid during the dispute
- DNA test fee
Complaints about the testing procedure
If either person is unhappy with any part of the procedure, they can complain to the Customer Service Department of the DNA testing company. They can also ask CMS to investigate their complaint.
Referring decisions to the court
If a child is conceived by fertility treatment, a DNA test may not be right. CMS cannot presume the parentage and might apply to a court for a decision.