Letter from the CSA - paternity testing disputes

This was in response to a request (below) under the Freedom of Information Act.


 

child support agency
Freedom of Information Focal Point
Room BP6002
Benton Park View
Benton Park Road
Newcastly upon Tyne
NE98 1YX

Ref: FOI/05/SEP/02

Date: 8 September 2005

Mr Barry Pearson
(address removed)

Dear Mr Pearson

Thank you for your letter dated 19 August 2005, requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act. In your letter you asked: -

While a DNA paternity test can disprove paternity, it can never prove paternity. A positive result only gives a very high probability that a man is the father.

If a man disputes a positive result, what recourse, if any, does he have?

The DNA tests used by the Agency are 99.9% accurate, so where there is a positive result, there can be little more than negligible doubt that the assumed Non-Resident Parent could not be the father of the Qualifying Child. The Agency is satisfied that they are efficient and conclusive in either proving or disproving paternity.

The Non-Resident Parent can dispute paternity both before and after a maintenance calculation has been made. Once a DNA test is taken the Child Support Agency can make a declaration of parentage, and subsequently a maintenance calculation, with the evidence it has a result of a positive DNA test. The relevant legislation that allows the Agency to do this is Child Support Act 1991, Section 26(2) (Case A3).

Once the maintenance calculation is in place, the Non-Resident Parent can appeal under Section 20 of the 1991 Act. Although the Non-Resident Parent can dispute paternity pre-maintenance calculation (and take what ever measures necessary to disprove paternity i.e. a DNA test), this appeal right only comes into effect after the maintenance calculation is made.

If a maintenance calculation is in force, the parentage dispute is treated as a request to revise the decision to make the assessment. The Non-Resident Parent will be asked to provide evidence to support his revision request. If the Non-Resident Parent does not provide conclusive evidence the Decision Maker should notify the Non-Resident Parent of the refusal to revise. The refusal to revise carries appeal rights under Section 20 of the Child Support Act 1991 and under Article 3 of the Child Support Appeals (Jurisdiction of Courts) Order 1993, this would be heard by a court rather than by a Child Support Age Appeal Tribunal.

An alternative route is for the Non-Resident Parent to apply direct to the court for a declaration of non-parentage under section 55A of the Family Law Act 1986. Section 55A(1) of this act provides for an alleged parent to apply to the High Court, county court or magistrates' court for a declaration as to whether or not they are a parent of a child. This will be initiated by the Non-Resident Parent, pre or post maintenance calculation.

Overall, the Child Support Agency will only revise the decision if there is conclusive evidence that the alleged non-resident parent is not a parent of the child (for example through DNA tests or if a court has declared this to be the case).

Statistically, several thousand of the CSA's non-resident parents have an identical twin, (typically not involved with the CSA). Indeed, there will be several cases each year where the men tested have an identical twin. A DNA paternity test cannot normally distinguish between identical twins.

If a man disputes a positive result on the basis of having an identical twin, how is this resolved?

If the Non-Resident Parent, who disputes parentage claims he has an identical twin the case is referred to court for a declaration of parentage, with a request that the other twin be made a party to the proceedings. The court will need to determine if they are identical – only a DNA test to compare the DNA of both men will prove this. This will require DNA profiling to be carried out to compare the DNA of the twins. Where either twin, or both, refuses to cooperate and provide evidence and information, then it will be left to the court to decide on the balance of probabilities who is the father. A court is unlikely to make a conclusion, which does not name one of the twins as the father.

How many such "identical twin disputes" have occurred, broken down annually if possible? Which way were they resolved?

We do not record the information you request.

Yours sincerely

DAVE SIMPSON
CHILD SUPPORT AGENCY
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION FOCAL POINT


My original request for information

(my address removed)

19th August 2005

Dear Sir

Please supply the following information, according to the Freedom Of Information Act.

This is part of a survey of the use of DNA paternity testing by government departments and agencies. For your information, I have read the document "CSA 2090 - Disputed parentage and DNA testing". I feel that it doesn't answer my questions:

Question 1. While a DNA paternity test can disprove paternity, it can never prove paternity. A positive result only gives a very high probability that a man is the father.

If a man disputes a positive result, what recourse, if any, does he have?

Question 2. Statistically, several thousand of the CSA's non-resident parents have an identical twin, (typically not involved with the CSA). Indeed, there will be several cases each year where the men tested have an identical twin. A DNA paternity test cannot normally distinguish between identical twins.

If a man disputes a positive result on the basis of having an identical twin, how is this resolved – as in "1" above, or some other way?

Question 3. How many such "identical twin disputes" have occurred, broken down annually if possible? Which way were they resolved? (Obviously I am not asking for their identities).

Thank you.

Yours faithfully

Barry Pearson

Page last updated: 22 September, 2005 © Copyright CSA and Barry Pearson 2005