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Home > Legal policy > Family matters > Court-directed paternity testing

Court-directed paternity testing

This section contains information on how to apply to become one of the accredited bodies for court-directed paternity testing. This includes the application form, guidance and the criteria that applicants will need to meet in order to become accredited.


Courts have a statutory power to direct a scientific test to ascertain the parentage of a child. The legislation is in section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969. The courts usually only find it necessary to use their statutory power when one party does not want testing to be done. If the court does make a “section 20 direction” then they must choose a tester from a list of accredited bodies that we maintain.

We have certain requirements for accreditation that accredited bodies must meet. The criteria are designed to ensure that the scientific evidence is sound and reliable.

Remit of the accredited list

We are responsible for maintaining a list of accredited bodies to carry out court-directed tests for parentage in accordance with a direction made by a court pursuant to section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969. This list is a procedural device to allow the court to identify a tester in cases where the court makes a section 20 direction.

These statutory provisions do not apply where parties submit DNA evidence by agreement and without any section 20 direction being given. In those cases it is not essential for such tests to be carried out by a laboratory accredited by the Department.

Requirements for accreditation

As a result of a recent review of the procedures associated with the list, revised criteria for accreditation have now been agreed. The criteria are:

We will consider applications from ISO 17025 accredited laboratories wherever situated, but will not consider applications from intermediary organisations. We will conduct an annual review of the continuing eligibility of each body on the list.

Completing the application form

To complete the application form you must do the following:

Representation of accredited status

Application form

The application form for accreditation by us to carry out court-directed parentage tests pursuant to section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969, is available to download.

The accredited list for court directed paternity testing

The list of organisations which are accredited to carry out court directed paternity testing, was submitted to the civil (including family) courts on 10 July 2006.

What is genetic paternity testing?

Paternity testing using DNA is a well-established scientific procedure that can identify relationships between people. DNA paternity testing has become cheaper and more widespread. It used to require blood samples, but can now use alternative body samples such as mouth swabs. For evidential purposes, any sample must be taken under controlled conditions.

Paternity testing is often over 99% accurate. If the putative father is not related to the child it is possible to exclude paternity by testing only the child and the alleged father. To prove that a child is related to a putative father, samples must be tested from the mother, the child and the putative father.

Contact us

Family Relationships Branch 2
Family Justice Division
4th Floor, Selborne House
54-60 Victoria Street

Tel: 020 7210 2653
Fax: 020 7210 8681


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