Paternity Testing 101: The Basics

Need to know if you might be the father? Have you considered your options? Did paternity testing cross your mind?

Paternity tests are, by far, the most reliable method you have of confirming whether you are the biological father of a child or not. It is a quick and simple process that will ultimately appease those rather disconcerting thoughts that tend to resurface from time to time.

But where do I get a paternity test from?

Understandably, the issue of anonymity and privacy is important. Luckily, online DNA testing is just a click away and allow you to do everything in the most discrete way possible. Once you have entered your search keywords, you will get several companies offering paternity testing services at very competitive pricing. You just need to make you pick one and order your test. Once you have placed your order, you will be asked to provide a physical address. This is because a kit will need to be sent out to you. You will need to use this kit to collect the DNA samples needed for the test.

There are of course private clinics or hospitals that also offer DNA testing and this is another option you might want to consider. However, you might not have any such facility in your town. In such cases, a online DNA test is definitely more convenient.

How do I use the kit and what does it contain?

Whether you are just doing an at home paternity test (what might be called a peace of mind test), a legal test or a DNA test for immigration, you will be using a sample collection kit. The kit contains cotton bud like buccal swabs which need to be rubbed inside the mouth to collect cheek cells. Important is not to eat, drink or smoke anything for around one hour before collecting your sample. Once you have completed the ten second rubbing procedure, the swabs are best left to dry so that no spores can germinate on them. Any mould could actually alter the DNA rendering samples useless.

Following the sample collection, you will then have a form to fill in. All DNA tests needs some form of consent from the people taking part in the test or the people requesting the test (in other words the person paying for it). Once you have filled in the consent form, you can send everything back for analysis.

What about my results?

Results of a paternity test are extremely accurate. Once samples are in the laboratory, certain genetic markers on the alleged father’s DNA profile need to be compared to the same genetic markers on the profile of the child. The tested man can only be confirmed as the biological father if all the genetic markers analyzed are the same. This is of course because a child inherits half their genetic material from their father and half from their mother.

If the tested alleged dad is the biological father, a minimum probability of paternity of 99.9% will be displayed. Conversely, if he is not, this probability will be 0%.

A word about legal testing.

Paternity testing is often used in court cases when there are child maintenance issues, custody issues or to change the name on a birth certificate. In some cases, the paternity test might actually be ordered by the judge who in such an instance, might also decide on a laboratory to carry out the test.

In a legal paternity test, the main difference is the way in which the samples are collected. Test participants will not be able to collect the samples themselves. A sampler (a person responsible for collecting the samples) will need to be appointed. In many cases, it will suffice to use a doctor or a professional who can vouch for the provenance of every sample. The documentation is also a bit different for a legal test. Test participants will need to take copies of a form of identification and passport sized photos. Results will also take longer as they need to be signed by a notary. Usually, the laboratory will have their own notary who can sign the result so as to make it legally valid.

Can I use other samples?

For an at home test, you can submit samples other than oral swabs. Say, for example, the child is not around for the test and you are unable to collect an oral swab sample, you can opt instead for having other DNA samples belonging to the child tested: a pair of reading glasses, a cap, a tooth brush, some nail clippings, teeth or cigarette ends. However, when it comes to legal testing, you cannot use any sample other than those collected using oral swabs. Every person who takes part in a legal test will need to fill out a consent form which will be witnessed and signed by the sampler too. Children under the age of consent will have their section filled in a signed by their parent or legal guardian.

Prior to any type of DNA test, it is always advisable to get some advice on which ever laboratory, clinic or company offering the test. 

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