Sun | May 31, 2020

Laws of Eve | Pros and cons of paternity tests

Published:Thursday | November 30, 2017 | 12:00 AMSherry-Ann McGregor

Persons who choose to undergo paternity tests have many different motives. One that might not be too contentious is to ensure that the child of a deceased man (who died without leaving behind a will), whose name was not on his child's birth certificate, is able to claim his or her rightful inheritance from the deceased's estate. Even some of those matters become deeply embroiled in litigation when that child is an 'outside child' who only came to light after the death.

Most often, a paternity test is requested by a man who wants to know if he is the biological father of a child who is claimed to be his. Either way, the outcome of the test is complicated because it will affect and permanently alter the lives of so many. So the pros and cons should be carefully considered before the test is requested.




The test result may clear up doubts that a man might have harboured, based on a child's lack of resemblance to either parent or to his/her siblings. In that way, reservations or feelings of doubt may finally be resolved. If those results are negative, it might seriously fracture relations in the family. However, if the results are positive, it might heal old wounds.

For a child, a paternity test may help him or her to connect with a family group, and get a sense of identity or belonging that he or she might not have otherwise had the opportunity to enjoy. However, if the test confirms that the only person that child knew as a father is not, the outcome could be devastating. Uncovering that lie may seriously disrupt the lives of children, and even the entire family.

Before taking any paternity test, the entire family should discuss the options and seek counselling, if necessary, to prepare for a possible fallout. This includes the possibility that the biological father may not wish to be a part of the family, and the man who had been the father may go away.

If we view the situation from the perspective of the person who is in doubt, then the paternity test will clear them up. If, however, the idea that peace of mind will follow the determination of genetic connection, that is a misconception. After the doubts have disappeared, there may be no abiding peace within the family after the test is done.

While there are some situations in which paternity tests may be mandated - such as when children seek immigrant visas (through their fathers, where there is a choice), it is important to weigh the pros and cons and ensure that the entire family can live with the outcome before going ahead.

- Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes Scholefield DeLeon & Co. Please send questions and comments to or