DNA Testing FAQs
DNA testing is an increasingly common way of determining relationships between individuals, such as whether a man is the father of a child. Now available as home kits used for peace of mind DNA tests are also often used in court cases and to prove paternity in maintenance claims. But what exactly do they involve and how accurate are they? Here are some of the most common DNA Testing FAQs:
If you do not see the answer to your question, please contact our Customer Support Team who will be happy to assist you in complete confidence.
Q. What is a DNA Test?
DNA – Deoxyribonucleic acid – is a chemical found in most of the cells in the human body and indeed all living organisms. DNA is responsible for storing information which is passed on from generation to generation. It is what determines what colour your eyes are, how tall you are – in fact, everything about your physical appearance and more.
As half of your DNA is passed on by your mother, and half by your father, it can be used to prove paternity and maternity, as well as other relationships.
Because DNA is found in almost every cell, it is present in a person’s saliva, blood, hair and fingernails and these are the samples most commonly used for DNA testing.
Q. How accurate is a paternity test?
Our paternity test uses 21 genetic markers for absolute peace of mind. Positive results are more than 99.99% accurate whilst negative results are 100% accurate.
Please click here for more information about Understanding DNA Test Results.
Q. How is a DNA test done?
Most DNA tests simply involve testing cheek cells. These cheek cells are collected by rubbing a mouth swab on the inside the cheeks of the person taking part in the test. This buccal swab – like a cotton bud, but bigger – painlessly collects cells from the inside of the mouth, from which DNA is extracted.
The swabs are then sealed in sample collection envelopes and sent off to the laboratory performing the test.
In certain cases, blood samples will be required, but this is not usually the case.
Q. Do you need the mother's permission to do a DNA test?
The father can give consent if he is named as the father on the child’s birth certificate, was married to the mother when the child was born or has a court order giving him parental responsibility. If none of these apply, then the mother MUST give consent.
If the father is legally entitled to give consent for the child to be tested, then we do not need a signature from the mother.
It is a criminal offence under the Human Tissue Act to have human tissue with the intention of its DNA being analysed, without the informed consent of the person from whom the tissue came. You can read more on our page about the 2004 Human Tissue Act.
If you are unsure of your ability to provide consent on behalf of a child please seek legal advice or Contact Us for more information before proceeding with a test.
Q. Do you need to test the mother in a paternity test?
Paternity tests are most accurate when the father, child and mother are all tested at the same time, but the mother’s DNA is not always required. Please visit our Paternity Testing page for more information.
Q. I sent my samples back but haven’t heard from you
We confirm receipt of samples by email on the day they are received at our offices. Due to the number of cases received each day we may not send the confirmation email until the afternoon.
If you have not received an email from us please check your junk or spam folder.
If there is nothing in junk or spam please use our Contact Form to request an update. Please include your name, case reference number, email address and the tracking number from when you posted the samples back to us. We will get back to you as soon as possible.
Q. What happens to my DNA samples after you have tested them?
DNA samples used for peace of mind tests are destroyed after results have been issued. Samples used for a court admissible test are retained for 6 months after issuing results before being destroyed.
Our partner laboratory is inspected once a year for their ISO accreditation and every 2 years for their AABB accreditation. As part of these external assessments, individuals who are not associated with the laboratory review their procedures and processes. Part of these inspections include a review of their client retention policies and procedures regarding disposal of client data, which must be done in a way that protects client privacy.
Q. Are your kits discreet?
All our kits are sent out in plain white envelopes marked Private & Confidential. We do not put our company name or any branding on the outside to ensure absolute discretion.
Q. How soon after taking my samples do I need to send them back to you?
It is best to send the DNA samples back to us for testing as soon as possible after they have been collected. However, as long as our instructions are followed carefully, and mouth swabs are allowed to dry before being placed in the envelopes provided, they will keep for several weeks.
It is possible to store DNA samples for several years if required – please see our DNA Storage service for more information.
Q. Why do I not put the swabs into plastic tubes after collecting samples?
The mouth swabs may still be damp after collecting samples, even after air drying for an hour or more. Damp swabs will continue to dry out after being sealed in the paper collection envelopes provided in our kits and will last for several weeks, even months. It does not matter if a damp patch appears on the outside of the envelope.
Swabs should be placed directly into the paper collection envelopes provided. They should not be put back in the original wrappers and must not be wrapped in plastic. The sealed envelopes should not be placed in a plastic bag.
Damp swabs sealed in plastic will start to degrade very quickly and may not provide sufficient DNA for testing.
Please click here for step-by-step instructions for How to Collect DNA Samples.
Q. What is a court admissible DNA test?
A court admissible DNA test can be used as evidence of a relationship in legal proceedings, for changing a birth certificate or when applying for a visa or passport.
Samples must be collected by an independent third party, such as a doctor or nurse, who will verify ID and confirm that samples have been taken from the correct participants before sending them directly to the laboratory.
This secure process is known as a “chain of custody”. This is a watertight process, during which the evidence, in this case the DNA samples, cannot be interfered with.
Please see our Legal Paternity Testing page for more information.
Home DNA tests, or peace of mind tests, allow you to collect the samples yourself but results cannot be used as evidence as there is no proof of who the samples were taken from. The results are for informational purposes only and provide a convenient and cost-effective way for you to find out whether the tested people are related or not.
Q. Do puppies need to be weaned before taking a DNA sample?
Nursing puppies can be tested. They should be separated from the dam for about an hour before swabbing their cheeks. This ensures no milk will be in their mouths to possibly contaminate the sample and that we get the puppy’s DNA instead of the Mum’s DNA.
It is important that all dogs to be tested do not eat or drink anything for an hour prior to taking the swabs, or have contact with any toys or bones used by other dogs, to reduce the chance of cross contamination.