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How DNA Leads to Proof of Paternity How the DNA Laboratory Determines Paternity

How the DNA Laboratory Determines Paternity

DNA is routinely used as a means of confirming or identifying paternity. Samples from the mother, child and potential father are taken and sent to a DNA laboratory where the samples are analyzed using state of the art techniques that identify matches in the samples. The results of this testing are accurate because a child’s DNA is a combination of both parents and will always be a combination of the two.

DNA is a coded message for genetic information. It is formed by sequences of 4 bases which are chemical compounds represented by the letters A, C, G, and T.

DNA testers use proteins in the form of enzymes to break apart segments of DNA and then compare all of the samples involved in a case. The DNA laboratory then uses statistical analysis to confirm of refute a paternity claim with amazing accuracy.

Genetic testing for paternity is important for many reasons. For example, the results of samples provided by a DNA laboratory can be used in a court of law to determine custody, child support, and inheritance and also to provide a medical record of any predisposition for genetic diseases. Because the results of genetic testing are so important, steps are taken by any DNA laboratory to protect the samples from tampering, mislabeling, contamination or fraud.

A DNA laboratory performs several types of testing to determine paternity. For example, testing can be done to determine if a man is the biological father of a tested child, and a test to determine if a woman is the biological mother can also be administered. Tests can be taken with other close relatives to see if a child is related to a specific family too. For example, matches can be made with grandparents, near cousins or siblings. Samples can be obtained from blood, saliva, semen, hair, bone marrow or more commonly from a buccal swab which is taken from the inside of the mouth.

Types of available testing include:
  • DNA Siblingship- Used between alleged siblings
  • Genetic Reconstruction Test- used with near relatives
  • DNA Grandparentage Test- Can be used with the alleged father’s parents
  • mtDNA Maternal Lineage- Test used to determine if two people are related on maternal side
DNA laboratories

A reputable DNA laboratory will be certified to perform testing under rigorous guidelines. In 1994 The US Congress passed The DNA Identification Act  to establish quality assurance standards. Despite their efforts there is still no regulatory oversight that mandates these standards are met. To deal with this issue, a DNA laboratory may seek certification from organizations like The American Association of Blood Banks.

One of the most important concerns in genetic testing for paternity is that the samples not be in any way tainted. For example, in order for a test to be legally binding it must be conducted by proper identification of all parties. In addition, the must be a witness, and all samples must follow standards set by certification organizations like The AABB for proper handling and chain-of-custody-procedure. Home test kits may be used to determine parental relationships, but because the process is not regulated the results may not hold up in court.