Genetic testing and how it can affect families

|January 10, 2020 | family law

Family secrets have been linked to divorce and marital strain since long before we had direct-to-consumer genetic testing like 23andMe. However, the popularity of these kits has made it easier than ever for people to discover untold stories and mistaken (or hidden) identities.

As such, there are families across Pennsylvania who may be dealing with some emotional and legal fallout after a genetic test revealed a family secret.

What the tests could reveal

Genetic tests can identify specific conditions or markers that can inform people’s medical care and health-related decisions. However, they also show other people with whom a person shares his or her DNA. These links could show that the test taker has a previously-unknown parent, sibling, child or other relatives.

These connections could indicate that a person was adopted or that a spouse had an affair. They might reveal that someone donated reproductive material or that a person has siblings or half-siblings.

Such revelations could be devastating and put immense strain on a family. It may lead to estrangements, divorce and possibly issues regarding child custody, child support and adoption.

Legal solutions to consider

After a genetic test exposes a family secret, it can be important to address the legal implications. This may not be anyone’s first priority during a difficult time, but discussing your case with an attorney can allow you to better protect yourself and your family.

You may want to explore legal options, including:

  • A postnuptial agreement with your spouse
  • Child custody and visitation orders
  • Changes to an estate plan
  • Guardianships
  • Child support requests
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Divorce

These are complicated matters, especially when they involve family secrets and dishonesty. As such, anyone facing these types of situations would be wise to seek legal counsel.

Having information about where we come from is significant. It informs our medical decisions and can help us feel grounded. When people receive results that challenge what they believed to be true, it can be disorienting and upsetting. Therefore, seeking support and guidance in light of these situations can be valuable.

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