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.

When a DNA test is needed

Both the potential father and the parent with care (receiving parent, 2012 scheme) need to agree to take the test.  Before the child can take the DNA test, the parent with care 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 meets their standards. Contact CMS for information about their test standards.

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 parent with care (receiving parent, 2012 scheme)
  • CMS

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 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.

If a parent with care (receiving parent, 2012 scheme) refuses to take the test and gets Income Support or Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance, the Social Security Agency may reduce their benefit by 40 per cent of the adult personal allowance.

This decrease may not be enforced if they can give good reasons for refusing to take the test. These reasons could include that there would be a risk of harm or undue distress to the them or any children living with them.

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 parent with care (receiving parent, 2012 scheme) 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.

More useful links

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.