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.

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