What does parental responsibility for DNA testing mean?

Before AlphaBiolabs can perform any of its DNA testing services we need to have a consent signature from each individual undergoing the testing process. This means that by signing your name:

  • You agree to have your DNA samples analysed for the purpose specified
  • You understand the test ordered and any limitations associated with it
  • You have read, understood and accept the terms and conditions

If a child under the age of 18 years is taking part in the testing process then a signature is needed from someone who has parental responsibility for the child. This is because a child may not understand the full implications of any DNA testing being undertaken. An adult with parental responsibility therefore has to sign on their behalf.

What is parental responsibility?

Parental responsibility is defined in section 3 (part 1) of the Children Act 1989 [1] as being:

‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property’.

In other words, parental responsibility means the power to make important decisions in relation to a child.

Who has parental responsibility?

  • Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for any children from birth and will not lose it if divorced.
  • Married fathers automatically have parental responsibility and will not lose it if divorced.
  • Unmarried fathers do not automatically have parental responsibility.
  • Stepfathers and Stepmothers do not automatically have parental responsibility.
  • Grandparents do not automatically have parental responsibility.

More detailed information can be found on the Gov.uk and Child Law Advice websites [2–4]

In England and Wales

If the parents were married when the child was born – or if they’ve jointly adopted a child – both have parental responsibility. This parental responsibility is maintained even if they later divorce.

An unmarried father can get parental responsibility for his child, by:

  • jointly registering the birth of the child with the mother (from 1 December 2003); or
  • getting a parental responsibility agreement with the mother; or
  • getting a parental responsibility order from a court

Same-sex partners will both have parental responsibility if they were civil partners at the time of the fertility treatment or donor insemination, etc. For same-sex partners who aren’t civil partners, the second parent can get parental responsibility by either:

  • applying for parental responsibility if a parental agreement was made
  • becoming a civil partner of the other parent and making a parental responsibility agreement or jointly registering the birth

In Scotland

A father has parental responsibility if he is married to the mother when the child is conceived, or marries her at any point afterwards. An unmarried father has parental responsibility if he is named on the child’s birth certificate (from 4 May 2006).

In Northern Ireland

A father has parental responsibility if he’s married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth. If a father marries the mother after the child’s birth, he has parental responsibility if he lives in Northern Ireland at the time of the marriage.

An unmarried father has parental responsibility if he’s named, or becomes named, on the child’s birth certificate (from 15 April 2002).

Outside the UK

If a child is born overseas and comes to live in the UK, parental responsibility will depend on which UK country they are now living in.

If you have any queries or need further information on DNA testing, please call Customer Services on 0333 600 1300 (+441925 255 450) or email customerservices@alphabiolabs.com

Useful links

[1] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1989/41/section/3

[2] https://www.gov.uk/parental-rights-responsibilities/who-has-parental-responsibility

[3] https://www.gov.uk/parental-rights-responsibilities/apply-for-parental-responsibility

[4] https://childlawadvice.org.uk/information-pages/parental-responsibility/