Last week, The Telegraph reported that fathers who have doubts over paternity of their children will soon be able to buy an over-the-counter DNA test to check. The kit costs £30 and contains swabs to collect saliva samples from the father and the child. Once collected, the samples are sent to a laboratory in New Mexico for analysis, which costs an additional £119. UK consumers can already buy the kit over the internet and the product has been available over-the-counter in America since late 2007. Based on retail sales there and internet sales here, distributor International Biosciences expects UK retail demand for the kits to be "immense."
Moral & Legal Ramifications
Critics of DIY paternity tests believe they contribute to a "culture of suspicion" and cause heartbreak for rejected children. But, Ian Meekins, CEO of International Biosciences, says the product "offers consumers a quick, convenient and affordable solution that doesn't require any courts, doctors or solicitors." "It's aimed at everybody ... We have ladies who aren't sure who the father of a child is, and there are chaps who want to find out. We don't stand as moral guardians and we don't judge. We just give people factual information."
"From a legal point of view a parent, someone who has responsibility for a child, can collect their DNA and provide it to us up to the age of 16," he added.
However, courts will not accept the test results as proof of paternity. Only a few laboratories are accredited to perform DNA paternity tests for courts in the UK. The labs must follow strict procedures, from taking the samples to reporting the results, and maintain a continuous "chain of custody" to ensure the tests are accurate and reliable.
Compliance with the Human Tissue Act 2004 is also a key concern, since "DNA theft" is now punishable by a prison sentence of up to 3 years and/or a hefty fine.
Additional Information & Advice
You can obtain additional information about family law matters on FindLaw.
Depending on your circumstances, however, you may want to speak with a solicitor who specialises in family law. You can be matched with a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.