If you have had more than one partner, it is natural for you to want to know who the father of your baby is. Different reasons to establish paternity include the need to collect support financially or emotionally, or simply for the peace of mind that accompanies knowing for sure.
Paternity testing from an accredited laboratory typically costs between $400.00 and $2,000.00, depending on the area in which you live in and the type of paternity testing you choose. The American Pregnancy Association recommends paternity testing from a testing facility that has been accredited by the AABB (formerly American Association of Blood Banks). Results are usually available to the patient in 5 business days or less.
Why is establishing Paternity important?
Most states have laws that require an unmarried couple to fill out an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) form to legally establish who the father is. If the couple is unmarried and the mother has not been married in the last 300 days, then no father will be listed on the birth certificate until this legally binding form is filled out. The AOP is sent to the states Bureau of Vital statistics, is recorded, and the father listed becomes the legal father.
If there is a question on who the father is, then paternity testing should be done as soon as possible. After the AOP is signed, couples have 60 days to request a DNA paternity test to be done and amend the AOP, or the father previously listed on the AOP could be held legally responsible for the child even if he is not the biological father.
If the mother is married to someone other than the father of the baby or has not been divorced for over 300 days, her husband is presumed to be the father of the baby. The biological father can only be named the legal father if he fills out an AOP and the husband also signs a denial of paternity. If the husband does not sign the denial of paternity, then either biological parent would need to take action in court to establish true paternity.
During the time that no father is listed as legal father, the baby’s rights are not fully protected. Naming a legal father is vital in ensuring that the baby is eligible for child support, and benefits such as social security, veterans benefits,and health care.
For more information regarding naming a legal father and filing an AOP, contact your state attorney generals office.
Types of Paternity Testing:
- Postnatal (after your child’s birth) DNA testing:
- Blood collection and testing
- Buccal swab (cheek swab) collection and testing
- Umbilical cord collection and testing
- Other sample collection and testing (semen, tissue, hair, etc.)
- Prenatal (before your child’s birth) DNA testing:
- Amniocentesis: This test is performed in the second trimester, anywhere from the 14th-20th weeks of pregnancy. During this procedure, the doctor uses ultrasound to guide a thin needle into your uterus, through your abdomen. The needle draws out a small amount of amniotic fluid, which is tested. Risks include a small chance of harming the baby and miscarriage. Other side effects may include cramping, leaking of amniotic fluid, and vaginal bleeding. A doctor’s consent is needed to do this procedure for paternity testing.
- Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS): This test consists of a thin needle or tube which a doctor inserts from the vagina, through the cervix, guided by an ultrasound, to obtain chorionic villi. Chorionic villi are little finger-like pieces of tissue attached to the wall of the uterus. The chorionic villi and the fetus come from the same fertilized egg, and have the same genetic makeup. This testing can be done earlier in pregnancy from the 10th-13th weeks. A doctor’s consent is needed to do this procedure for paternity testing.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Paternity Testing:
How soon can we start the testing process? DNA testing can be done as early as the end of the first trimester of pregnancy, starting in the 10th week by the CVS procedure.
Are test results kept completely confidential? It is a rule of most DNA laboratories to keep your results completely confidential. Speak with each laboratory individually on their policies concerning confidentiality.
What risk does DNA testing pose to the mother and the developing baby? Testing conducted after a baby’s birth involves no known risks. Prenatal DNA testing done in conjunction with other prenatal testing involves some risk associated with how the testing is conducted, whether amniocentesis or CVS. These tests are often discouraged for the sole reason of seeking paternity because of the increased miscarriage risks.
Can an exact date of conception be determined accurately without a paternity test? Many women have questions about the date of possible conception, and unfortunately figuring this out is not always so easy. The assumption is that if a woman has pretty regular menstrual cycle, then she will be ovulating during a certain time of the month. Ovulation is the time when conception can take place because that is when an egg is made available.
The problem is that most women do not ovulate on an exact date each month, and many women have a different ovulation day from month to month. If you also take into account that sperm can live in the body 3-5 days after intercourse has taken place, this can make figuring out conception very difficult.
Most doctors use the first day of the last period (LMP) and ultrasound measurements to gage the gestational age of a baby and determine when the baby was conceived. But these are just tools used to estimate the dates—it is very hard for anything to tell what the exact date of conception really is. Most people do not realize that ultrasounds can be off up to 5-7 days in early pregnancy and up to a couple weeks off if the first ultrasounds are done farther into the second trimester or beyond.
Due dates are not an accurate tool for determining conception since they also are only an estimation date (only 5% of women give birth on their due dates).
If you are seeking the estimated date of conception for paternity reasons, and intercourse with two different partners took place within 10 days of each other, we strongly encourage that paternity testing be done; this testing can be done during pregnancy or after the baby is born. This is the only way to accurately know who the father is.
How much does it cost to establish paternity? Costs will vary dependent on which types of procedures are performed. Prices can range from $400.00 to $2,000.00. Prenatal testing is often more costly than testing done after a baby is born because of the additional doctor and hospital-related fees. Some testing sites offer lower cost testing that is non-court-approved, or “curiosity testing.” Most centers offer payment plans and will require full payment before they release the results to you.
Can I use the DNA test results in court? Many centers now offer court-approved tests, but also lower cost “curiosity testing.” If you aren’t sure if you will need the results for a court case, it is probably worth the extra cost to go ahead and have a court-approved test done.
Who do I call for Paternity Testing? There are a number of DNA and paternity testing facilities around the country. You want to make sure you use an facility accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). You may be interested in comparing different testing facilities.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Office of Attorney General of Texas, http://www.oag.state.tx.us/index.shtml