Paternity issues
Parentage, especially paternity
Misattributed paternity rates and non-paternity rates
Paternity test statistics don't show the rate of paternity fraud
Paternity testing and Islam
Paternity fraud
Paternity tests for peace of mind
Some links to paternity testing services
Paternity testing fallacies
Children's rights

Many articles published on the web have a naive theme: "stop worrying about biological paternity - what matters is raising children". Many others have a contemptuous theme: "children need money to be raised - find the nearest man with a wallet". Here are some commentaries on several of those papers.
Paternity commentaries - index

Some papers on this website on the subject of paternity testing:
"The truth is out there" - Commentary on "Move to outlaw secret DNA testing by fathers"
"Knowledge is bliss" - Towards a society without paternity surprises
What is the crime if men seek confirmation that children are theirs?
"A matter of opinion" - Unofficial paternity tests and the impacts on children
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Children's rights

Here are the best-recognised rights in this area. Key conventions and laws are:

Date Law, etc Case Quote Comment
United Nations
Ratified by UK in 1992

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UK has ratified this convention. In fact, only the USA and Somalia haven't ratified it.

 

Article 7

1. The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

Article 8

1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.

Article 9

3. States Parties shall respect the right of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child's best interests.

Article 18

1. States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child. Parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.

The emphasis on the left is mine.

In the UK, "parent" increasingly means the biological parent, and this convention should be read in this way except for obvious exceptions.

October 2002  

Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Commenting on:
2nd periodic report of the United Kingdom, 14 September 1999, plus June 2002 supplement.

31. While noting the recent Adoption and Children Bill (2002), the Committee is concerned that children born out of wedlock, adopted children or children born in the context of a medically assisted fertilisation have not the right, as far as possible, to know the identity of their biological parents.

32. In light of articles 3 and 7 of the Convention, the Committee recommends the State party to undertake all necessary measures to allow all children irrespective of the circumstances of their birth or adoptive children to obtain information on the identity of their parents as far as possible.

Identifying the wrong man as the biological father is surely as open to criticism as failing to identify the right man.

An unofficial paternity test won't necessarily inform the child. But children surely won't benefit from a climate of secrecy about true parentage.

European Court of Human Rights
 

European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

 

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Hence Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

2002-01-17

 

The judgement in Mikulic v. Croatia.

(The applicant was born in 1996).

"Private life, in the Court's view, includes a person's physical and psychological integrity and can sometimes embrace aspects of an individual's physical and social identity. Respect for "private life" must also comprise to a certain degree the right to establish relationships with other human beings ... In the Court's opinion, persons in the applicant's situation have a vital interest, protected by the Convention, in receiving the information necessary to uncover the truth about an important aspect of their personal identity".

 
UK Courts
 

Human Rights Act 1998

The Child Support, Pensions, and Social Security Act 2000

The Adoption and Children Act 2002

   

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 is the same as that of the European Convention above.

The Child Support, Pensions, and Social Security Act 2000 amended the Family Law Act 1986 to permit paternity tests to be ordered against the mother's wishes.

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 s56-s65 permits children to learn more about their birth.

   

An appeal court judge, Lord Justice Ward

This and the case below were quoted in:

Guardian, Clare Dyer, "Any one of four men could be Joe's real dad

Lord Justice Ward, said: "If [the child] grows up knowing the truth, that will not undermine his attachment to his father figure, and he will cope with knowing he has two fathers. Better than a time bomb ticking away".

UK courts appear to be adopting principles such as "it is better for the child to learn sooner rather than later"; and "it is better for a child to learn by paternity test rather than live with rumours".

   

The case of Re T (Paternity: Ordering Blood Tests) [2001] 2 FLR 1190.

Noted in "Genetic testing and the impact on the family", Ann Northover and Grainne Dennison, Fam Law October 2002.

Mr Justice Bodey decided that all the adults and the child had rights to respect for their private and family life, which conflicted with each other. The parents had the right not to have their life destabilised.

But the most important right was the child's right to know "his true roots and identity". He used the phrase "the inappropriateness of a child being allowed to live a lie".

Paternity tests are now sometimes being ordered against the mother's wishes.

Page last updated: 16 March, 2006 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003