Can A Mother Refuse A Paternity Test In South Africa? Understanding Your Rights And Options


Paternity disputes can be emotionally taxing and legally intricate matters. Whether you are seeking peace of mind, trying to establish child maintenance or clarifying parentage, a paternity test can play a crucial role. Two questions that often arise regarding paternity disputes are how you might get one done and can a mother refuse a paternity test in South Africa.

A mother has the right to refuse to submit herself and her child to a paternity test, although as stipulated in the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, the courts allow that this decision might affect her credibility. At the same time, a judge can dismiss this refusal if they feel it is necessary to discover the paternity.

To better understand the world of paternity tests in South Africa, we’ll take a look a look at what a paternity test is, thoroughly answer the questions of can a mother refuse a paternity test in South Africa, take a look at the different instances whereby a paternity test might be called for, while also navigating through some of the essential aspects of getting a paternity test done.


What Is A Paternity Test?

A paternity test is a genetic analysis determining the biological relationship between a child and a potential father. It compares the child’s DNA and the alleged father to ascertain whether they share a biological connection.


Can A Mother Refuse A Paternity Test In South Africa?

Paternity disputes often involve complex emotions and legal considerations. So, can a mother refuse a paternity test in South Africa? The short answer is yes. She does have the right to refuse a paternity test, as any person has the right to refuse an invasive test on their person.

Although according to Section 37 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, if a mother or father refuses to submit themselves or the child to have their blood taken for a paternity test, this refusal might affect their credibility.

Also, you should note that courts can compel parties to undergo paternity testing, especially when child maintenance matters are at stake if they feel that, in that instance, the truth is more important than the parents’ or potential parents’ refusal.


Two Types Of Paternity Tests: Legal Vs. Peace Of Mind

When getting a paternity test, two main instances might require you to get it done. The first instance is where you wish to know for peace of mind. For example, you would like to know if someone is or is not your or your child’s biological father, not because of a dispute, but just for the knowledge’s sake.

The other instance is in child maintenance cases, whereby you need to prove that the potential father is the biological father to get them to pay maintenance towards a child, or the father wishes to prove that he is or is not the biological father for custody or maintenance purposes.

A legal paternity test is conducted under strict chain-of-custody procedures, ensuring the results are admissible in court. The peace of mind test is less formal and can be done at your discretion for personal assurance.


Who Needs To Supply DNA For A Paternity Test?

In most cases, the child, the alleged father, and the mother must supply DNA samples for accurate testing. The child’s DNA is essential for comparison, while the alleged father’s DNA provides the reference point.

As a child gets their DNA from both parents, it is necessary to know the mother’s DNA so that her contribution can get ruled out to provide a more accurate result. An important thing to note here is that paternity test results might be unclear if the mother’s DNA is absent.


Whose Consent Is Required For A Paternity Test?

When it comes to consent for paternity testing, the situation can vary. If both parents agree, testing can proceed smoothly. However, if one parent is uncooperative, the other can seek legal intervention. Courts can order paternity tests, making refusal difficult.


What Documents Will You Need When Having A Paternity Test Done?

Legal documents will be necessary for a paternity test to initiate the process if the test is court-ordered. Apart from these documents, you typically need a few other essentials for all parties involved, including the following:

  • Two front-view passport photos per person
  • ID Documents – original and a certified copy for each person being tested
  • A certified copy of the birth certificate of the child getting tested


The Two Pieces Of Legislation Involved With Paternity Disputes

In South Africa, paternity dispute issues fall under the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 and Maintenance Act 99 of 1998.

Two sections, namely Sections 36 and 37 of the Children’s Act, are pertinent to paternity issues as they outline parental responsibilities and rights. Section 21 of the Maintenance Act deals with paternity disputes’ financial aspects.


Child Maintenance Matters: The Costs Involved With Paternity Tests

Establishing paternity can have significant implications for child maintenance matters. During a maintenance dispute, the maintenance officer might perceive, or there might be, a clear indication of a paternity dispute. In such cases, the maintenance officer has the authority to propose blood tests if both parties involved provide their consent.

Suppose both parties are willing to undergo scientific tests for establishing paternity but are financially unable to cover the expenses. In that case, either party can request a summary inquiry regarding paying the paternity test costs. They must make this request during the maintenance inquiry before the maintenance court issues any orders.

If the maintenance officer approves such a request, the court will investigate the parties’ financial capabilities. Additionally, the court will consider any other relevant circumstances that might impact the decision.

Upon concluding this inquiry, the maintenance court has the authority to take one of the following actions:

  • Issue a provisional order concerning the payment of the paternity test expenses. This order could include a provisional directive for the state to cover the total or a portion of the costs.
  • Decide not to issue any orders regarding the payment of the test costs.


Paternity tests play a critical role in resolving disputes and establishing legal responsibilities. While emotions can run high in these situations, it’s essential to recognize that the legal system can intervene to ensure fairness and justice.

If you’re facing a paternity dispute or contemplating a paternity test for peace of mind, understanding your rights and seeking legal guidance can help you navigate this sensitive journey. Our Burnett Attorneys & Notaries team can help guide you through the intricate landscape of paternity disputes and tests in South Africa. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for expert assistance tailored to your unique circumstances.