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Fathers question paternity
Article from: Sunday Herald Sun April 22, 2007 12:00am

MORE than 22,000 Victorian fathers could be raising children that are not their own.

The surprise figure comes as rising numbers of fathers resort to furtive DNA tests, without the child's mother's consent, to check their doubts.

Paternity experts estimate about 3 per cent of fathers wrongly assume children are biologically theirs.

That means across the nation almost 92,000 men are not the true father. In Victoria, that number is almost 23,000.

The 'no paternity' result is even higher among those whose suspicions lead them to seek out DNA testing.

In those cases, the figure is about 30 per cent of all tests.

A series of DNA dramas involving High Court challenger Liam Magill, politician Tony Abbott and Anna Nicole Smith's baby have raised awareness of paternity issues.

With 5,000 tests done nationally at a cost of about $800 for court-recognised results, it is rapidly becoming a multi-million dollar industry.

"It's been going up every year since it started in the mid-1980s," said Swinburne University paternity expert Prof Michael Gilding.

"There are more children born outside of marriage and there's more uncertainty about the circumstances of the conception," he said.

Most DNA testing was done to force someone to pay child support or by someone trying to avoid that cost. The main group seeking DNA testing were unmarried women seeking to prove a particular man was the father, he said.

"The second major cause is a Magill-type situation where the couple split up and the man is raising the questions," he said.

Anna Nicole Smith-style cases, where paternity checks were used in inheritance disputes, would have occurred in Australia, he said.

Most tests are done with the consent - and mouth swabs - of both adults and the child.

But at least a quarter are 'peace of mind' tests that are not recognised by the courts. These are one-parent tests where one adult and the child provide their DNA samples, often without the knowledge of the other parent.

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