A child gets half of his or her genetic information from the mother and the other half from the father. These combined DNA fragments constitute the child’s STR profile. In some circumstances a man may want to have a paternity test done to confirm that he is the natural father. If the child’s STR profile contains fragments that cannot be matched to the alleged father, he can be ruled out as the child’s biological father.
Why Might You Need a Paternity Test?
In most healthy relationships, paternity never becomes an issue. It is estimated however, that between 5 percent and 20 percent of children have had the wrong man identified as their father. In some cases, if the mother has had several partners, she may be genuinely unaware of who the father is, in other cases she may know but has withheld his identity. As a man, you may wish to have a paternity test undertaken if:
- You have genuine doubts that the child may not be yours. Such doubts may arise if you are aware that the mother has had a number of sexual partners and is making requests to you for financial child support.
- You and your partner have separated on bad terms and she is now claiming that the child is not yours.
- You were raised with a step-father or were adopted and as an adult you wish to find the identity of your biological father.
What Is a Paternity Test?
There are different ways of conducting a paternity test each will depend on the age of the child. Postnatal testing may be done immediately after the child’s birth by collecting a sample of blood from the umbilical cord at the time of delivery. For older children, either a cheek swab or blood sample may be taken.
It is possible to have a paternity test while the mother is still pregnant. There are a number of options:
- Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity (NIPP): This is the least invasive way to establish paternity before birth. This process uses cutting-edge technology to analyze the baby’s DNA found naturally in her bloodstream. The test requires a blood sample from the mother and the supposed father. It may be performed at any time after the 8th week of pregnancy.
- Amniocentesis: This test may be performed during the second trimester of the pregnancy (between the 14th and 20th week). For this procedure a needle is guided through the mother’s abdomen and into the uterus to withdraw a small amount of amniotic fluid. This procedure does carry a small risk of harming the baby or causing a miscarriage. The mother will need a doctor’s consent for this type of paternity testing.
- Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS): For this procedure a thin needle is inserted into the mother’s vagina and through to the cervix to gather chorionic villi. These are the small finger-like tissues attached to the uterus wall. They come from the fertilized egg and so have the same genetic makeup as the fetus. This test can be undertaken from the 10th to the 13th weeks of pregnancy. The mother will need a doctor’s consent for this type of paternity testing.
Are The Results Admissible in Court?
For the results of your DNA paternity test to be admissible in court, it must meet two requirements:
- It must be performed by a DNA paternity testing laboratory that is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).
- The samples used in the paternity test must have been collected, shipped and stored in a way that maintains an unbroken chain of custody to ensure that the samples came from the true individuals involved in the test.
Who Can Get the Results of a Paternity Test?
A paternity test is absolutely confidential. The only people entitled to receive the results are the mother of the child and the other adults who have been paternity tested. As well as the result, all parties will receive copies of the pictures of everyone who was DNA tested. The only other people who may obtain the results are those designated by the adults involved in the DNA paternity test or a legal guardian of the minor child who has been tested. No one else may obtain any information relating to the DNA paternity test.
Most DNA paternity tests have an accuracy rate of 99.99% even if the mother is not included. Make sure you have your paternity test performed by a reliable laboratory.
About the author: Zara Bryant works at a DNA testing clinic and is able to share some of her knowledge with an online audience who might be seeking this service and have many questions but aren’t sure where to start. She hopes her articles will be a good starting point to learning more and getting help. Image: Caroline Davis2010