With the advent of genetic testing came the possibility to conduct paternity tests. Advances in paternity testing now allow for private, non-intrusive and more convenient collection of samples. Whatever your reason, paternity testing is now as simple as obtaining cheek swabs from the privacy of your home. Paternity testing is a highly accurate and increasingly easy-to-use procedure.
The new methods of collection (saliva sampling and cheek swabs) also provide a cheaper alternative than was previously available. Genetic paternity testing is not covered by Medicaid or health insurance as it is not seen as a medically necessary procedure.
Reasons to Use DNA Paternity Testing
If there is any doubt at all as to identifying the true parent, DNA testing can resolve this issue. DNA testing can give peace of mind to all the individuals involved. A DNA test achieves 99% accuracy in establishing paternity.
Child custody or support
In order to establish custody arrangements, it may be necessary to confirm paternity in a court of law. This is especially practiced for children born out of wedlock. For fathers providing child support, paternity testing serves to reassure the father of the biological relationship. He can definitively know that he is providing financial support for his child.
Insurance or Inheritance Policies
Some insurance companies will ask for paternity tests to ensure that the benefiting child is indeed biologically related to the father.
Adoption agencies ask for paternity tests in order to register parental information of the child.
Depending on where you are in your pregnancy, you have two prenatal paternity test options available. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) can be conducted at 10-12 weeks. The procedure involves collecting the chorionic villi that make up the placenta and gathering a sample from the father to see if there is a match. Amniocentesis will be conducted from 12-21 weeks of gestation by obtaining the amniotic fluid that surrounds the placenta.
These procedures are completed at hospital and the DNA samples are flown to a genetic testing lab that specializes in paternity testing.
Samples must be taken from all parties involved: mother, father and child. In the past, blood samples were taken to determine blood types, but the evidence was inconclusive as even the most rare blood types are shared by at least 10% of the population. These days, more sophisticated DNA analysis is available, including blood, saliva, cheek swabs and other tissue samples. These methods have made paternity tests cheaper than the days when only blood sampling was available.
It is now also possible to determine the biological match between a child and their rearing aunt, uncle, grandparents or siblings. Kinship testing uses more advanced DNA testing than genetic paternity testing.
Sibling testing can be conducted on full or half siblings in order to determine the degree of siblingship. Cheeks swabs are taken from the two siblings (and a parent if possible) and sent to the DNA laboratory. Results will confirm whether siblings have same father or whether they are half siblings.
If you have twins, you can usually tell by appearance if they’re identical or fraternal twins. When one sperm fertilizes one egg and that egg later divides, you have a set of identical twins. While identical twins will always exactly resemble each other, fraternal twins frequently will also appear to be identical. For example, did you know that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are in fact fraternal twins? It proves that you can never be sure whether your set of twins is in fact identical or fraternal.
A twin DNA test will resolve this question. Called a twin zygosity test, it calculates the probability that twins are identical. It will also show if fraternal twins are born of the same father.
Bioethical Concerns and Legal Issues
Genetic paternity testing has forced our society to re-evaluate the nature and implications of biological and care-giving parenthood. The debate between nature and nurture has definitely stirred a frenzy in other ideological arenas. Some state courts take these considerations into account in their legal practices.
Canadian courts, for example, will not deny access to a child based on biological relations. Rather, access is granted to the child based on what is in their best interest. They will also take existing parent-child relationships into account regardless of biological relation. This is based on the literature that points to the importance of the emotional and psychological bond between father and child.
Different states have different laws concerning biological relationships so research your state’s legal approach to this issue.
Ways Paternity Testing Can Affect Your Life
Unsure whether you need a paternity test, or how DNA testing can change your life? Below are some fascinating stories about how families were reunited, custody battles fought and won and fraud caught.
Father Happily Reunited with Lost Daughter
“About a month ago, I received a phone call from a 15-year-old girl who is my son’s sister. She claimed that she thinks I am her father. I had heard a rumor years ago that she could be my daughter but when a paternity test was requested when she was little, the mother denied it claiming I am not the father. Since then the mother had all of her children taken away by the state and I was given custody of my son. So, for the past 10 yrs, this young lady has been bounced from foster home to foster home always wondering who her father was, dreaming that she would one day find him and live happily ever after with him. I decided that we needed to find out if she is in fact my daughter. The test came back that there is a 99.9999% probability that I am her Father. I immediately went and picked her up from where she was staying and she is now living with my wife and I and our other 4 children. Both of our dreams have come true! She has a real ‘family’ for the first time in her life and I finally have my daughter in my life where she belongs.” - RH
‘Father’ Paid Child Support for Someone Else’s Children
“I’m married with two children, but am separated from my spouse. I’ve been paying child support for more than five years…I was able to do a private DNA test on both of my children. I was so devastated when I got the Paternity Analysis Report that I thought I was going to die. The Paternity Analysis Report read that the probability of paternity was 0% for both of my children. I took this case to court and the Paternity Analysis Report served as evidence. It was proven in court that this DNA test analysis was true. The court dismissed the child support and freed me of all responsibilities.” - PH
Family Disrupted When Husband Accused of Being Father to Unknown ‘Child’
“A woman from my husband’s past decided to “confess” to my husband that he was the father of her 14-year-old daughter. It was something that was very upsetting to my family, as not only did this woman tell this to my husband but also chose to tell her daughter, who in turn told our daughter. It was something that we really did not believe but did not want to dismiss either in case it was true. If my husband was truly the biological father we needed to accept parental responsibility for the sake of this child, and our two children needed to know if they had a sister or not. We feel everyone deserves to know the truth, especially the children ...It took some time to convince the mother that [a DNA] test should be done and the truth known so we could all handle this situation properly. We had mother and daughter come to our house and all three did the swabs and sealed their envelopes. It was very simple and painless. We did not want to upset this little girl anymore than necessary. The test came back showing a 0% probability of my husband being the biological father. We were not surprised at the results.”
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD