Paternity Tests: How Do They Work, and How Accurate Are They?

Families come in all shapes and sizes. They can get complicated quickly, especially if there are questions about paternity. You might need a DNA paternity test if you want to establish paternity so you can claim your fatherly rights. You might be a mother who wants to get child support and visitation from an absent father. Perhaps a child was conceived during separation and there are two putative fathers.

Whatever your situation, DNA paternity tests are often required. If you’ve ever wondered how they work and how accurate they are, read on.

How to determine whether a child is biologically related

Modern DNA testing has been around since 1985. As you may know, we inherit half our DNA from our mothers and fathers. Our DNA is a unique genetic sequence that’s specific to us, unless you’re an identical twin. The genetic sequence can be analyzed to see whether the DNA in father and child “match up.”

DNA can be collected in a number of ways. If the child is already born, the lab will collect either cheek swabs or blood samples from both putative father and child. After the tissue or blood sample is taking, the lab techs will fragment the DNA. The fragmented DNA is run through a gel that sorts the DNA into a “banding” pattern. From there, the techs can analyze whether the child is related to the father.

If you can’t find the father, or he has died, you may be able to test the DNA between siblings. While identical twins share 100 percent of their DNA, full siblings only share 50 percent. Half siblings share about 25 percent of their DNA.

If you want to establish paternity before birth, it’s possible. Certain types are invasive, such as DNA tests that involve placing needles through the abdomen (amniocentesis) or through the abdomen or cervix (chorionic villus sampling). These can present a small risk of miscarriage. Luckily, there’s a simple blood test that can also establish paternity. This analyzes the mother’s blood for free-floating fetal DNA in the bloodstream.

DNA paternity tests are 99.99 percent accurate. If paternity is established, it’s more than likely that that man is the father. However, if you fear the results have been compromised, your lawyer will help you petition the court.

What happens after a paternity test?

You might seek paternity for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to establish rights to see your child or to make sure the biological father pays child support. Other times, a father might suspect that he isn’t a child’s father. He may want to disestablish paternity, especially if the child was the product of an extra-marital affair.

If paternity is established, the family courts will determine whether the father should have custody or visitation, and how much child support he should pay. Of course, a father is always welcome to admit he’s the biological parent without the need for genetic testing.

When you need a DNA paternity test, Maynard & Joyce, LLC can guide you through the process. Call us today for a consultation.