35.1 ‘Parentage testing’ refers to testing conducted to confirm or deny the biological parentage of a particular child or person. Testing may be conducted by blood group or DNA analysis. Parentage testing is one form of kinship testing; other forms include twin testing, sibship testing and grandparent testing.

35.2 DNA parentage testing may exclude a person as the biological parent of a child with certainty, but it cannot prove absolutely that a person is the child’s biological parent.[1] The test result can, however, provide a probability that a person is the biological parent of a child and, if that probability is sufficiently high, an inference of parentage may be confidently drawn.

35.3 As a child’s maternity is usually not in question, most parentage testing relates to paternity. However, there are circumstances in which maternity may be misattributed or otherwise unclear; for example, where a child has been separated from its mother, or where maternity is at issue in the context of an immigration application. Accordingly, the generic term ‘parentage testing’ is used in this chapter, unless the context indicates otherwise.

35.4 There are many reasons why a person may seek parentage testing. A man may seek parentage testing to confirm or deny suspicions that he may not be the biological father of a child who is said to be his own offspring. A woman may seek parentage testing to confirm or deny her suspicions that her child is not the biological child of her husband or partner. A child may seek parentage testing to establish a biological link with a parent for the purposes of identity, child support, family provision or succession to property. A person may seek parentage testing to provide evidence of a family relationship in the context of an Australian visa application.

35.5 The media has shown considerable public interest in the subject of DNA parentage testing throughout the life of this Inquiry. This has been spurred in part by a few well-publicised cases, and in part by controversial comments by public figures, such as the Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia (Family Court).[2]

[1] C Pearman, ‘Parentage Testing’ in I Freckelton and H Selby (eds), Expert Evidence in Family Law (1999) LBC Information Services, 745.

[2] L Schwartz, ‘Paternity: Stop DNA by “Stealth”’, The Sunday Age (Melbourne), 26 May 2002, 1.