What is paternity testing?
Paternity testing can determine whether or not a particular man is the biological father of a particular child. This procedure involves collecting and examining the DNA of a small sample of bodily fluid or tissue from a child and the alleged father. DNA is the unique genetic "fingerprint" that is present in every cell of a human’s body. When a baby is conceived, each parent passes on half of their genes contained in 23 chromosomes to the baby, whose genetic code (46 chromosomes) is a shared mix of only its mother’s and father’s DNA. By collecting and examining a small sample of DNA from the baby and the alleged father, a paternity test can confirm or disprove that the alleged father is indeed the biological father of the baby. (Note: To provide a complete DNA picture, typically, a mother’s DNA is also collected and tested although this is not absolutely essential for confirming or disproving the identity of the father.)
What bodily fluids and tissues can be sampled?
DNA is present in most of our body’s cells. A small sample for testing can be obtained from several bodily sources. The cells most commonly tested are obtained from the blood or inside the cheek of the mouth (called buccal cells).
How is the cheek cell test conducted?
Cells are collected by gently rubbing a cotton swab – similar to a Q-tip - on the inside cheek of the mouth. The swab is sent to a laboratory and a select number of specific DNA sequences are examined to determine if the DNA collected from the baby match DNA collected from the alleged father.
How accurate is DNA testing?
DNA testing is generally considered to be the most accurate testing method available. DNA paternity testing can indicate that a man is highly likely to be the father with about 99.9% accuracy or that he is excluded as being the father with 100% accuracy.
Can paternity be confirmed before the baby is born?
Yes. Two different testing methods can be done while the baby is still developing in the mother’s womb. One test, called chorionic villus sampling (CVS), is conducted only between 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy. This test involves testing a small sample of tissue from the placenta. Another test, called amniocentesis, is performed between 15 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. This test involves passing a needle through the mother’s abdomen into the womb to withdraw a small sample of amniotic fluid, which also contains cells from the baby. The collected samples are then forwarded to a laboratory for examination. Although technically possible to confirm paternity with these tests, the risk of miscarriage – generally given as 1% (1 in 100) for CVS and 0.5% (1 in 200) for amniocentesis should be taken into consideration.
How long does it take to obtain test results?
Results of buccal cell DNA paternity testing are usually available within 5 to 10 days after receipt by the laboratory. DNA paternity testing by CVS or amniocentesis would take between three and four weeks before results could be made available.
Can the results of a home test be used in a court of law?
Without legal identification of the test taker and official witnessing of the test, a home paternity test is not admissible in court.
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