DNA Tests and its Legal Implications

DNA Tests and its Legal Implications

A reality show called The Closure DNA Show that is being aired by ZBC Tv and being sponsored by Global DNA Zimbabwe has become the talk of town and has been trending. In as much as it is show biz and entertainment, people have welcomed it with different and mixed feelings. Some are of the view that the disclosure is necessary and important whilst others are of the position that it destroys families and things should be left as they are without the DNA tests. However, DNA tests have legal implications and the main focus shall be on child maintenance.

Paternity is the legal determination of which man is the father of a particular child. The determination of fatherhood is necessary primarily for two reasons, namely the status of legitimacy or illegitimacy and the maintenance of the child concerned. A paternity test is done through a scientific analysis of the child’s blood after matching it with that of the natural mother and the disputed father(s), a DNA test.

Maintenance is the legal obligation that a responsible person is supposed to pay towards the welfare and upkeep of their dependants more particularly their children[1]. Maintenance is an obligation for both parents but in most cases men have been found guilty of neglecting their children. In some cases, the father would have been lied to that they are not the real father or have not been made aware that they sired a child. The fact that the mother of the child is the mother is irrebutable and undisputed whilst the fact that the alleged father is the real father can be subject to dispute.

In most cases disputes arise when the father denies being the responsible person to maintain the child. The father can deny being sexually involved with the mother of the child or acknowledge having been sexually involved with the mother but deny getting the mother pregnant. Some men can even allege that the mother was having numerous sexual partners hence he could not be pointed as the father. This can result in either party requesting a DNA test to be done to ascertain whether the alleged father is really the father of the child.

A dispute can also arise in a scenario where two men are fighting over a child. Both will be claiming that they are the father to the child. The mother of such a child will not be denying having sexual encounters with both men but might not be really sure of whom the real father is. However, in some cases the mother would be sure of whom the father is but she chooses to impose the pregnancy on the other man who is in a better financial position or who is more loving and caring than the real father.

The other scenario which is most prevalent on the DNA Closure Show is when the mother is legally married but has an extra marital affair and get pregnant during the subsistence of the marriage. This usually happens with the second or third born child of the marriage. The mother of the child will live with her husband peacefully and maintain a normal life without disclosing to her husband that the child is not his ‘gomba harina mwana’ concept. The alleged father will be maintaining the child and providing for the child as it is a duty of a parent to provide parental care to its child. A dispute will arise when the real father starts claiming his child and this is when the dispute will be resolved by resorting to a DNA test. When the results are out confirming that the man who has been taking care of the child is not the real father, he then seizes to maintain the child forthwith and the real father assumes the duty to maintain the child.

It is a fundamental right of every child to have parental care and provision of basic needs for their welfare and upkeep as provided for in the Constitution[2] as well as international instruments like The Convection on the Rights of Children. Upon birth of a child both parents have an obligation to maintain their child. By operation of law and public policy, it is presumed that a reasonable parent will provide for and take care of their child. However, when one party is neglecting or refusing to maintain the child the other party can apply for a maintenance order.

It is therefore important that a child is maintained by their parents. Both the father and the mother have a legal obligation to maintain their child. Therefore, a DNA test is important in the event of a paternity dispute. A child has to be maintained by the responsible person. It becomes unfair for the mother of the child not to disclose who the real father of a child is and to deprive the responsible person of his right and obligation to maintain his child. In light of the best interests of the child principle, the High Court has power to compel the father or the mother to go for a paternity test if the issue of paternity is in dispute[3]. Either party can make an application to compel the other party to go for a DNA test. Other parties reach a mutual agreement to take the child for a DNA as a way to resolve any paternity disputes.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not contain our professional legal advice. Readers must not solely act on the information contained in this article without seeking legal advice.

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