By Prosper Dembedza
The adage a woman knows the child is hers, while a man only believes rings true for statistics released by the Harare Magistrates Civil Courts where the majority of men who challenged the paternity of children in the last six months discovered that they were raising other people’s children after DNA tests proved negative.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing is generally considered to be the most accurate testing method available.
DNA paternity testing can indicate that a man is highly likely to be the father with about 99.9 percent accuracy or that he is excluded as being the father with 100 percent accuracy.
Statistics made available by the Harare Civil Courts yesterday revealed that at least 72 percent of the men were exonerated from paternity by the tests, but not before forking out a lot of money in maintenance.
Of 11 men who disputed maintenance claims brought to the court between January and June this year and when the court ordered paternity tests, eight were found to have been looking after other people’s children.
The statistics have raised concern that these cases could be just a tip of the iceberg with more men taking care of other people’s children as not many demand or can afford paternity tests.
DNA paternity tests are conducted in cases where a man raises doubt of having fathered a child.
Paternity testing can determine whether or not a particular man is the biological father of a child. This procedure involves collecting and examining the DNA of a small sample of bodily fluid or tissue from a child and the potential father. DNA is the unique genetic “fingerprint” that makes up a person’s genes and chromosomes.
When a baby is conceived, each parent passes on half of his/her DNA to the baby, whose genetic code (DNA) is a shared mix of only its mother’s and father’s DNA. By collecting and examining a small sample of DNA from the baby and the potential father, a paternity test can confirm or disprove that the potential father is indeed the biological father of the baby.
If the man contests paternity, he is given up to six months to undergo testing during which period he is ordered to pay interim monthly maintenance until the results are out.
If the tests are negative, the court cancels the maintenance order that compelled the man to support the children.
The man can then approach the courts and apply for the woman to re-reimburse him the money he would have paid as maintenance.
The statistics provided by the court also showed that DNA tests for 66 percent of men who disputed maintenance claims the whole of last year were negative.
The situation was also in favour of men in 2013 where DNA tests ordered by the Harare Magistrates’ Civil Court revealed that 70 percent of them were raising children who were not theirs.
Most men fail to undergo the tests due to their costs considered to be high, as they range between $470 and $520 for a man, woman and one child.
In a maintenance application the onus probandi (the burden of proof) is on the man to prove he is not the father of the child.
In 2013, 96 men applied to undergo DNA paternity tests, but nearly 50 abandoned their challenges after failing to raise the required fees.
The court refers the parties to the National Blood Transfusion Services of Zimbabwe (NBTSZ) where blood samples are taken and sent to a South African laboratory.
Results are expected between 10 and 15 days and are sent back to NBTSZ, which then forwards them to the court which will call the parties and announce the results.
When a man wins his case, he then applies for discharge from paying maintenance and can subsequently claim back all the money he would have paid from the woman.
In the event that the woman fails to reimburse, a court order may be obtained to attach property or to commit her to prison.
When the paternity is confirmed (positive results), the woman can then apply for upward variation from the interim maintenance that was being paid. The Herald