How Does a Paternity Test Prove Parentage?

Paternity tests are frequently used to remove doubt as to the paternal parentage of a child. Although the logistics of human birth leave no argument as to the maternal lineage of a child, it can be important both practically and legally to be sure who the father is as well. This can be accomplished by comparing the DNA of the assumed father to that of the child. Because every child born inherits half of his DNA from his father and half of it from his mother, it is possible to compare these profiles to see if they are similar enough to assume parentage.

A basic paternity test requires the participation of the father, but evaluating genetic information from the mother as well can improve the accuracy of results and lead to analists providing a higher calculated probability. Even without the participation of the mother, though, a dna test can determine paternity with 99.9% probability.

Advances in technology have recently provided parents with the option of using a home paternity test kit. These work in the same way as laboratory tests. DNA samples are provided by both the alleged father and the child, and these are mailed to a lab for analysis. Collecting the DNA is done through a simple and painless procedure called a buccal swab. A sterile stick, similar in appearance to a Q-Tip, with synthetic fibers balled in the end is used to collect saliva and cells from inside of both parties’ mouths. The swabs must then be allowed to dry for one hour before mailing them to the lab.

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Most labs require signed consent forms from both potential parents and the child’s legal representative before performing tests. But in cases where the assumed father is unavailable or deceased, it is possible to obtain consent from his heirs. In these cases non-traditional DNA collection methods must be used, which can include hair, fingernails, dried blood, or any other bodily cells.

A home paternity test is quite reliable, provided it is sent in to an accredited lab. The results provide roughly the same probability indexes as more official tests. However, any results obtained are not admissible in court. Those looking to prove paternity in custody or other related disputes should consult a lawyer, as related legal proceedings vary from state to state. In these cases paternity tests will be performed in an official setting so that the identity of both the child and the alleged father being tested can be confirmed.

Any laboratory evaluating paternity tests, whether taken at home or in a more structured setting, is required to meet certain standards. This is to eliminate any potential sources of error and guarantee the probability ranges obtained. Lists of accredited laboratories are available online.


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