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What is a Paternity Test When is Prenatal Paternity Testing Used?

When is Prenatal Paternity Testing Used?

A prenatal paternity test is a form of paternity test conducted with samples obtained from the mother during pregnancy. The samples are taken in one of two ways. Amniocentesis is done during the second trimester or between the 14-24 weeks of pregnancy. A doctor uses ultrasound to assist in guiding a needle through the mother's abdominal wall and into the uterus. Amniotic fluid is collected and submitted for testing.

In chorionic villus sampling, or CVS, a doctor uses ultrasound to guide a needle either into the cervix by way of the vagina or through the abdominal wall to collect a portion of the placenta where it attaches to the uterine wall. Called the chorionic villi, this tissue is composed of the same mixed DNA as the fertilized egg. This procedure can be done earlier in pregnancy, as early as the 10-13th week. This form of prenatal paternity test provides faster results.

Both of these prenatal paternity test techniques are considered safe, but not without risks; therefore neither of these tests are encouraged. Due to the invasive nature of each, the most serious risk is of miscarriage and the death of the baby. Amniocentesis and trans-abdominal CVS carry a risk of cramping, bleeding, leakage of fluid, and harm to the baby.  Transcervical CVS can be complicated by a tilted uterus and when fibroids are present. CVS is not recommended for women who have an active sexually transmitted disease, who have bleeding issues or fibroids, or who are carrying twins.

In most cases, women are advised to wait until the birth of the child to conduct testing unless special circumstances require early establishment of paternity. This is to avoid even a small risk to the unborn child. Samples can be taken from the umbilical cord at birth to be used in testing or from a painless cheek swab. Blood and other tissue testing are also possible. These tests can be conducted at less cost because there is no added procedure or physician involvement. The cost of prenatal paternity testing is not usually covered by insurance or Medicaid.

At the time of birth, a form called the Acknowledgement of Paternity (“AOP”) is required for couples who are not married; each State will use a different form. This form lists the biological father of the child. The child's birth certificate will not name a father until the AOP form is completed and filed. Once completed, there is a limited amount of time, which varies by state, during which the AOP can be amended. Taking advantage of a prenatal paternity test can provide those involved additional time to establish the true, biological father and avoid any questions, added paperwork or hassle after the child is born.

Under certain circumstances, a man may find himself automatically listed as a child's father. When a woman is divorced less than 300 days, the husband is assumed to be the father of her baby. To set the record straight requires knowing the true biological father so that he may complete an AOP and the husband can sign a denial of paternity. In some cases, legal action is required to resolve paternity. For a father in question, a prenatal paternity test or paternity test as soon as possible after birth is the means by which a potentially costly, emotionally traumatic situation can be avoided.

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.