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Support for DNA Tests to Confirm Parentage

20 March 2008

Support for DNA Tests to Confirm Parentage

Family First is supporting a proposed law which would allow courts to order compulsory DNA testing of children for paternity checks. Approximately 7% of children in NZ have no named father on their birth certificate.

“Children have an important right of knowing who their biological parents are – and this should be supported by our laws,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “We disagree that taking a bodily sample raises issues in relation to the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990. The child’s right to know is greater.”

As stated by Judy Turner MP when introducing this proposed law change in parliament - “Currently, if a dispute exists and a man believes he is the father of a child and wants his name on the birth certificate so that he can contribute to the well-being of the child and have access to him or her—or it may be the reverse, that he is named as the father and he has some doubts about that and would like to have it clarified—under the current Family Proceedings Act the judge can recommend that a DNA test is done, but the mother can block it... the father then has to undergo a lengthy and expensive court process—taking 4 or 5 years.”

The Law Commission’s paper on Legal Parentage recommended that section 54 of the Family Proceedings Act be amended to give courts the power to order DNA tests, rather than just recommend them. They also said that the Court should order DNA testing unless there are “compelling reasons why it would not be in the interests of justice, including the best interests of the child”.

The Law Commission said “The argument [that it would not be in the child’s best interest’s to determine parentage by testing because it might distress the child by disrupting his or her current parenting arrangements] has been rejected by the courts on the basis that the long-term consequences to the child of uncertainty surrounding his or her parentage outweigh the short-term disruption to the child’s current family life that resolving parentage might cause.”

“Currently the law makes it easier for a mother to insist that a father takes a paternity test to establish whether he is the father of a child but more difficult for a father to insist that a mother consent to testing of a child.”

Family First believes that a child has a right to know who their biological father is, and that a father has a right to have the ability to have input into his child’s life, from the earliest possible age. A delay in establishing paternity will make it more difficult and robs both father and child of a relationship in those early and important years.


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