Lawyers say that going to court “outs the truth.” But really, DNA will. Now that in-home DNA testing products are widely available, aside from the price-tag (maybe a few hundred dollars to learn about your heritage), what is the true cost of these services? Not surprising to divorce professionals: the cost of DNA testing services can be found in the resulting court cases.
A friend of mine, I’ll call her “Rebekah,” was excited to learn more about her heritage through a gift she received to a DNA testing service called “MyHeritage.” But when she received her results she found out more than she bargained for: her father was not biologically related to her. Not only that, her sister was only a half-sibling, and not related to their father either. This discovery caused a horrible scene during the holidays and eventually it resulted in her elderly parents’ divorce.
Another woman that I consulted told me that the test results led to the revelation that she was a product of rape. Not only that, but it turned out her father was rather wealthy when he died (right before she learned of her ancestry). Her siblings – brothers and sisters she just discovered – were in the middle of a costly court fight over her dad’s estate and she needed to know her rights to her inheritance.
While my examples are court cases that are directly related to the discovery of new family information from DNA services, there are no clear statistics as to how many family court cases will result from these services. Issues regarding paternity, custody, and estates are ripe for these services.
And you might not have anything to worry about, but one of your relatives may be hiding something. Just consider Joseph DeAngelo. His relatives uploaded their DNA to a public registry called GEDmatch.com. Their DNA led criminal investigators to the 72-year-old former police officer, who was arrested in April 2018 on 8 counts of murder, uncovering him as the so-called “Golden State Killer.” The New York Times reporting on the case included these thoughts:
23andMe has more than 5 million customers, and Ancestry.com has 10 million. But the DNA in databases like these are relevant to tens of millions of others — sisters, parents, children. A lot can be learned about a family simply by accessing one member’s DNA.
Other issues with these fun ancestry tests abound. For example, on June 6, 2018, the service called MyHeritage announced that it was hacked leading to over 92 million accounts being compromised. Who has your DNA map now? And will that result in litigation against the company?
Clearly the use and wide availability of these testing services has changed the game for lawyers and litigants. The full scope of how this information will be used to start new cases, solve problems or create problems remains to be seen. One thing is certain: people have long-hidden secrets that will be discovered, and your truth may be out there.
Have you used a home ancestry/DNA test? Discuss in the comments.