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A Tiberias court has rejected a request to conduct a DNA test on a 12-year-old girl to determine who her father is, because of the emotional damage it could cause her.

Tiberias Family Court Judge Asaf Zaguri last week turned down the demand of a father to perform a genetic test on the girl whom he raised until the age of four and who is registered as his daughter.

The court ruled that if the test was performed the child was liable to suffer damage as a result of probing the paternity issue, because of the importance of her father in her life. It was also ruled that his identity as the only psychological and biological father she knows would be undermined.

The girl grew up with her parents until the age of 4, when there was a crisis in the relationship between her father and mother. Since then the girl's connection with her father has become steadily weaker.

Five years ago the mother submitted a demand for child support from the father. He claimed that he was not the biological father and requested a DNA test. At the same time he severed the connection with the child, who is unaware of her father's request that she undergo a DNA test. The father no longer lives in Israel, and has already started a new family.

The mother, who is convinced that the plaintiff is the child's father, had no objection to the test because she wanted to remove any doubt about paternity. But the social worker and a representative of the Social Affairs Ministry opposed to the test, arguing that the child has no need for an examination of the claim, and is well aware that the man is her father.

Judge Zaguri noted that the crucial question is the significant role the father has played in the girl's world. "The place of the registered father in the life of the minor child affects her identity and its formation, particularly at her present age. In this case, there is no question that during the first four years of the minor's life her father was the most significant figure in her life, until he left the country and failed to return."

The judge ruled that the court has the authority to prevent a test, when it contradicts the good of the minor and is liable to undermine the identity of the only psychological and biological father she has known. It also ruled that even if another biological father is found in the future, it will be impossible for him to have the same impact on the child's identity as the registered father.

The attempt to clarify the identity of her father could have a detrimental effect on the girl just as she enters the critical period of adolescence, added the court.

Attorny Irit Rosenblum, director of the New Family organization, said that rejecting a man's demand to carry out a DNA test is not unusual, because the Genetic Information Law does not permit a test if there is a fear that the result will lead to the child's being declared a mamzer (a child born to a married woman and a man who is not her husband ).

But in this case, the decision is exceptional because there is no fear of her being a mamzer. "This is very great progress," said Rosenblum. "The court has taken responsibility, which is a rare thing, but I'm afraid that it won't stand the test of reality. From the moment the subject is on the table, the parents will clearly continue to be preoccupied with it, and discussing the question of identity will continue to disturb the family."