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What is a Paternity Test Basic Legal Issues for a Paternity Test

Basic Legal Issues for a Paternity Test 

A paternity test is a DNA test used to verify whether a particular man is the biological father of a child. Such testing is done in cases where there is more than one possible father. There are many good reasons for pursuing such a test and specific benefits to each of the parties involved.

For the woman, the peace of mind afforded by a paternity test is foremost. Finally knowing positively the father of her child, she can be protected in cases where a father denies paternity. This information can be used to work toward securing the proper support for her child, both financially and emotionally. For the child, there is the potential for a stable relationship and formation of family bonds. The child's claim to benefits from inheritance, Social Security, and insurance will be protected and a complete medical history can be documented.

In cases of divorce, questions may arise surrounding the status of children involved, especially if there is an ongoing pregnancy. Without a paternity test, a husband is legally assumed to be the father when a woman is married or her divorce is less than 300 days old. If the husband is not the father, special steps have to be taken to have the biological father named as a legal parent. For couples seeking to adopt a child, such testing can provide an added measure of legal protection, proof that the true parents of the child have both relinquished custody.

In 1973 the Commissioners on Uniform Laws proposed the Uniform Parentage Act (UPA), which sought to establish a consistent rule on adjudicating paternity disputes. The UPA, which has been adopted by 18 states, continued to use the marital paternity presumption. In addition, it presumes a mother's husband to be the natural father of a child if the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated. The UPA does state, however, that a presumption of paternity may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence.

The greatest benefit may come for the man involved, because a paternity test can protect him in two very important ways. First, if he is found to be the father, rights for visitation, custody, and the opportunity to be an active part of the child's life can be secured. Equally as important, a man's emotional and financial resources are protected from false claims.

A paternity test offers reliable results of up to a 100% probability for exclusion from being the father and 99.9% or greater chance for inclusion, meaning the man is considered the biological father. The sample collection process is often simple and painless, performed through a cheek swab. Alternate forms of testing use other tissue, blood, or amniotic fluid to secure the DNA needed. In cases where the father is missing or deceased or the mother cannot or will not participate, testing options still exist.

There are home kits available where individuals collect their personal samples and submit them to a lab for screening. These tests are more private and less expensive, but are generally not legally admissible. In cases where a paternity test is needed for court, a medical professional must collect the samples and verify the identification of those involved. This can be slightly more expensive, but a trained collector can complete the documentation, ensure samples are gathered correctly, and the results can still remain confidential.

Because it is being used for court-related purposes, it is required that a disinterested witness oversee sample collection and handling during legal paternity testing. A complete list of instructions and example documents are included with the paternity testing kit. In short, however, provided the steps below are followed exactly, the paternity test results from your legal DNA test may be admissible in court:

  • One (1) unrelated, disinterested witness is required.
  • The unrelated witness collects the sample or observes the sample collection, according to the instructions supplied with the legal paternity testing kit.
  • Witness and sample providers then complete and sign the required paperwork as indicated on the examples provided.
  • Test participants must provide positive identification.
  • Test participants (or legal guardian in the case of a minor or legally incompetent adult) and witness must sign and date copies of positive identification.
  • The witness then packages and seals the completed legal paternity test in the provided envelope.
  • You should always check the laws of your State and consult a legal professional for a course of action that is appropriate to your particular situation.
It is advisable for those considering a paternity test to first understand the potential effects the testing and subsequent results may have on the lives of those involved. The test can trigger powerful emotional responses. A family's structure, relationships, and financial standing may be affected. Some testing sites offer referrals to family law practitioners and counselors across the country as part of their service. Resources can also be found locally through the Internet or social service agencies.