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DNA testing opens up new choices to adoptees, birth parents

Posted on in Family Law

DNA kits like those from Ancestry and 23 and Me are becoming commonplace everywhere. What was mostly a cottage industry has seen tremendous growth thanks to aggressive advertising in the last year or two.

That’s creating all sorts of unexpected complications for adoptees, their adoptive parents and even some birth parents. It also suggests that the law may have to eventually take new steps if it wants to keep up with the science of the times.

DNA kits are a huge hit. However, they also stand the potential for disrupting lives in numerous ways. For example, someone who hasn’t been told he or she was adopted may find out the hard way after doing a DNA test without mentioning it to his or her family in advance.

Similarly, DNA kits also sometimes unexpectedly turn up something — or someone — else: A birth parent or even siblings that might otherwise have remained a mystery. It can even uncover details that were placed under court-ordered seals and designed to stay that way in bygone years before the science was possible.

That’s what happened to one Arizona man who sent out a DNA kit. He knew he was adopted — but he never expected to find out that his biological mother had also used the same DNA company.

The DNA kits let users choose whether or not they want to allow their identities to become publicly available. That means that birth parents and adoptees can get around records that were sealed long ago, which was common prior to the 1990s.

The tests can also turn up unwitting relatives, including siblings, who can help connect adoptees to their birth parents.

In some cases, the information may be unwelcome because people sign up never expecting the results they get. In other ways, it can get important information passed on. For instance, in the case of the Arizona man, his birth mother had attempted to find him once before to warn him that she had developed cancer. She was still concerned about the well-being of the son she’d given up for adoption more than 40 years before.

It remains to be seen what family law issues might yet arise from these test in the future. Men, for example, may be surprised to find out about unknown children — which also opens issues like support and visitation rights.

Source:, “DNA testing connect adoptees with birth parents. What happens next is complicated.,” accessed Dec. 21, 2017

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