Paternity tests often evoke the image of dramatic talk show "reveals" where distressed mothers attempt to determine who their child's father might be from among a group of men. While this may be the stereotype of paternity testing thanks to daytime television, the reality is rarely that dramatic. Commonly, these tests become essential for determining parental rights in legal proceedings when matters such as visitation, support, and custody are at stake. There may be only one possible father, but the paternity test can establish that fact conclusively. Whether you are a mother who needs child support from a reluctant father or a man who believes a child may not be his, paternity testing can be crucial in a modern family law proceeding.
Why Conduct a Paternity Test?
A paternity test conclusively determines a child's father in the eyes of the law. As a result, there are a number of benefits, both legal and practical, to identifying a child's true father:
Establish financial support. Paternity determines not just one's entitlement to child support payments, but also the child's entitlement to social security, veteran's benefits, disability, and inheritance rights.
Medical insight. Knowledge of the identity of both parents and their medical history can provide crucial information when managing a child's health.
Parental bonding. The vast majority of men actually want to have a part in raising and providing support for their children. That includes financial and emotional support. Having conclusive proof of paternity can give fathers peace of mind that they are bonding with their own child and not simply being taken advantage of by an opportunistic ex.
Paternity is not just about finances and establishing responsibility for child support. While that is necessary to ensure a child's care, establishing legal and social benefits protects a child's future and ensures the involvement of a committed parent, despite marital status.
What Kinds of Tests Are Available?
Paternity tests are 90 to 99 percent accurate, depending on the type of test conducted. Those based on DNA are the most accurate at 99.9 percent. They are performed by taking genetic material from each parent and comparing it the child's DNA to find a match. The most commonly performed DNA test is the post-natal swab test. A swab on the inner cheek collects DNA cells for comparison. DNA can also be collected from the umbilical cord at birth if the parties want results as soon as possible. Age does not matter, and DNA testing can be used to determine the paternity of adult children, too.
Prenatal test are becoming more common. These can be conducted after the eighth week of pregnancy. The non-invasive prenatal paternity procedure uses the DNA found in the mother's bloodstream. It is also less risky than other prenatal procedures as it only involves a blood collection from the mother instead of an amniocentesis or other invasive procedure.
Paternity in Legal Proceedings
Either party can request a paternity test during a family law proceeding involving minor children. Once requested, any potential fathers may be required by court order to submit genetic material. While it is less common, mothers can be requested to submit genetic material, too, in order to improve the accuracy of the results. Scientific evidence weighs heavily in favor of the accuracy of DNA paternity testing, so courts have recognized these tests as a means of conclusively establishing paternity for legal purposes.
If you are going to rely on paternity testing in a legal proceeding, you must request a court-approved test from the service you choose. Be aware that some jurisdictions may have a preference for a particular lab or procedure when it comes to paternity tests, so do your research before having the test performed. Your attorney should be aware of these preferences, or you may find such information by checking the court's web site.
Knowing is Better
While it is true that fathering a child out of wedlock introduces complications that do not arise with married couples, it does not mean you have to stay in the dark. Why forego being a part of your child's life, or live with the question of whether your partner was unfaithful? The paternity test can answer these questions and, for many men, it can be the first step to establishing a meaningful father-child relationship.