Cafcass DNA testing service
In some family court proceedings there is a disagreement about who is a child’s parent. If this disagreement means a current application for a child arrangements order cannot be decided, the court may ask Cafcass to carry out a DNA test.
Cafcass provides a free DNA testing service to parents involved such proceedings. The only cost involved for parents is travel to the office where the DNA sample is collected. See more information on the process below.
Having the test
If a test is ordered, you will receive an appointment letter from Cafcass. In most cases testing takes place in a Cafcass office under the supervision of a Cafcass officer.
This is a self-testing process by taking the sample from a simple cheek swab. The adult being tested will take the sample themselves and the child’s sample will be taken by the adult accompanying them.
The Cafcass officer’s job is to make sure the sample is taken correctly and to confirm everyone’s identity.
The adult being tested and the child (with a responsible adult) will be given separate appointments. In most cases there is no need to take a sample from the child’s mother.
You can find out more detailed information about what happens when a sample is taken in our leaflet: Completing a DNA test.
After the sample is taken it will be sent to a laboratory to be tested. The testing process is very accurate – confirming with 99.99% accuracy if a person is a child’s biological father.
After the court has ordered a test it will usually take 30 working days for the report to be delivered. The court will give copies of the report to participants. Cafcass cannot provide you with the result.
If the test result raises any issues which you need help with, you should contact your local NHS for counselling or other support.
Key points for courts and legal advisers
The service is only available for any cases that meet the criteria above. The existing routes for tests in child maintenance and S55 cases remain open and should be used.
HMCTS guidance has been issued to all courts alongside a letter from the President of the Family Division and the Chief Executive of Cafcass.
In the majority of cases, tests on the child and possible father give the necessary level of accuracy. Courts should not make orders for others to be tested, unless the men believed to be the possible father are genetically related to each other; in such cases a test on the mother may be needed. Advice can be given by [email protected].
Talking to your children about the DNA test
It is important that children can have honest information about the test, but that this is given in ways that do not undermine their relationship with their parents.
When thinking about explaining the test to your children there are three things you should remember:
1. Make sure you’re emotionally ready
Being emotionally ready means acknowledging your own feelings and any negative thoughts about your child’s other parent. And then being able to set them aside and stay calm when talking to your child.
You can find more information about listening and communicating with your children and some steps that you can take to help with this in the Parenting Plan.
It is worth spending some time thinking about your approach and being ready to listen to your child so that you can respond to what they need.
2. Be clear about what taking the test involves
You can help reassure your child by speaking to them calmly and clearly.
You can explain that it is quick and easy and that the person accompanying them, who they may know, will be taking the sample – the Cafcass officer is there to check that the process is right, but will not take the sample.
You should to be clear about what the sample taking involves – this leaflet explains more:
3. Think about what is appropriate for your child
Children will need different levels of information depending on their age and understanding, as well as what they know about the dispute.
It may be helpful to mention that the court has to find out lots of information to make decisions and the test is being done to help the court know more about your family. This places the emphasis on the test being carried out at the court’s request – rather than focusing on the parents – and can help to protect children from the adult issues.
Once you have chosen the best approach, gently sticking to it and staying calm can work well. What you say is up to you.