What To Expect (Legally) When Your DNA Test Says “Not Parent Expected (NPE)”

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Walsh Law Office, Hingham, MAFor those of you who have ever read a family law blog, you may know that January kicks off the annual “divorce season:” that time of year that many people decide to file for divorce. The most common reasons that people file for divorce in January have to do with waiting to get through the holidays (usually for the sake of the kids), for tax planning purposes, or so that they can sell their home on the spring market before the start of a new school year.

However, with our ever-burgeoning technology, January may become a time for others than just divorcing spouses to be seeking legal counsel. It may also become a time for those who received the holiday gift of a DNA test kit from 23andMe, AncestryDNA and the like to seek legal counsel because they received a finding from the test that they never expected: NPE.

NPE stands for “Not Parent Expected” or, in the medical world, “Non-Paternity Event.” In layman’s terms, a result of NPE from a DNA test means that the man or woman you thought was your biological parent, is not. Such information can be devastating, shocking, life changing and confusing all at the same time. While many of the issues that arise from an NPE determination can best be addressed through counseling or therapy, some of the issues fit squarely into the legal realm.

For example, for a child who learns that the parent he has always known is not his biological parent, he may have questions about such things as changing his last name, amending his birth certificate, accessing records (like medical or legal records) regarding his family, and whether he (or perhaps his mother) is entitled to some sort of retroactive child support. NPE children may also wonder what the legal status of the parents they grew up with actually is, now that they know that there is no biological relation.

The parents who raised NPE children may have questions, too. A father who raised an NPE child may wonder, for example, whether he can revoke paternity. He may also wonder whether he is entitled to be reimbursed for child support he has paid to that child’s mother over the years.

Some of these issues have clear-cut answers and some of them do not. Over the next several weeks, our blog will address each of these issues in turn and try to shed some light on how Massachusetts law affects NPE children.

For more information, contact Walsh Law.

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