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How DNA Testing Impacts Family Law Cases

DNA Tests in Texas Family Law Cases

The rise in technology has impacted family law cases, particularly in matters related to child custody, child support, and paternity. DNA tests have become a quick and almost painless way to establish the relationship between a parent and a child.

Why Would I Need a DNA Test?

In family law, DNA tests are typically ordered if a mother does not know the father of her child or if a presumed father is contesting his paternity. Paternity is the establishment of the legal identification of a child’s father (ie: fatherhood).

Most commonly, paternity is at issue when the parents of a child were not married when the child was born. The Court requires that paternity be established and a father of the child be named. Essentially, paternity is the act of asking the Court to declare the legal father of a child. There are many ways to establish paternity, but DNA testing may be one of the easiest. DNA testing provides near perfect, scientific evidence to determine and establish father-child relationship.

Who Can Ask for a DNA Test?

Either the mother or presumed father of a child can ask for a DNA test. The Office of the Attorney General could also request that a DNA test be administered. The Office of the Attorney General may be involved in a family law case if one parent asked the State to help them receive or pay child support or if the child is receiving health coverage with government assistance (Medicaid).

How Do I Get a DNA Test?

A DNA test can be voluntary or court ordered. If all parties agree, they can voluntarily undergo DNA testing to see if the child and the father are a match.

If one Party refuses to participate, the Court can order a DNA test. If a Party request a DNA test, they must do so by filing a Motion for Genetic Testing. In that motion, a Party must spell out why they are requesting a DNA test.

What Happens at a DNA Test?

The DNA test may be conducted by many different means depending on what the Court orders. A DNA test may consist of blood, buccal cells (saliva), bone, hair or other body tissue or fluid samples. The most common manner of testing are saliva and blood.

DNA testing is conducted in a private testing facility. In Harris County and surrounding counties, the Court often uses National Screening Center to facilitate their DNA tests. The result time may vary based by facility and manner of the test, but typically they return within 4-6 weeks.

What Is the Science Behind a DNA Test?

First, DNA is collected from both the child and the presumed father. Once the DNA is collected, scientists look at the different DNA samples to see if they share chromosomes. Every person has 46 chromosomes – 23 chromosomes from each parent. The scientists look to see if the presumed father and the child share 23 chromosomes. If DNA matches, there is a 99.999% possibility that the man is the child’s father. If the DNA does not match, the man tested is not the father of the child.

Who Pays for a DNA Test?

Depending on what type of case you have may depend on who pays for the DNA testing. If the Office of the Attorney General is involved, they could be responsible for the cost of the DNA testing. If the Office of the Attorney General asks for the test, it will likely be their burden to pay for the cost. If the Office of the Attorney General is involved and paternity is established, the Office of the Attorney General may seek reimbursement for the cost of the test.

Other times the individual who asked for the DNA test most likely will pay the cost. The Court, however, can order DNA testing to be paid in any manner they see fit. There is no way to know what the Judge will order given that he or she has a wide range of discretion.

Can I Refuse a DNA Test?

If the Court orders a DNA test, that means a Judge made a ruling and ordered a Party to do something. Failure to comply with a court order could result in penalties, like a fine, fee or even contempt. If a Party fails to take a DNA test, the Court could enter a default judgment against the person who refuses to take the test. A default judgment means that the Court automatically names the refusing party the parent of the child, without the DNA test.

If you are being asked to conduct a DNA test and have questions or concerns, make sure to contact one of our knowledge attorneys to help assist you.

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