A paternity action is a court suit filed to have a man declared the father of a child and can be brought by either the mother or father. If the man is determined to be the father, the court will order child support payments and will give him custody or visitation rights.  DNA tests today can determine paternity with 99.9% accuracy and can rule out paternity with 100% accuracy. DNA tests determining paternity are usually admissible in court.

What Is DNA Testing?

In the practice of testing for paternity, DNA profiling allows for the direct examination of a child's genetic material. The genetic characteristics of the child are compared to its mother. Those characteristics not found in the mother must have been inherited from the father. Next, the suspected father is tested, and if he does not have those genetic characteristics, then he is not the father. If he does have those characteristics, the probability that he is the biological father is then calculated.

What Else Should I Know About DNA Testing?

There are certain things that anybody thinking about a paternity test should be aware of.  These include: 

  • Can an unborn child be tested? - Yes, a specimen can be obtained through chorionic villus sampling (a test that can be done 10 weeks into the pregnancy) or with amniocentesis (15 weeks into the pregnancy)
  • Can testing be done without the mother? - Yes, it is possible to test the child and alleged father when the mother is not available
  • Who does the testing? - Testing should be done by a laboratory approved by an accreditation body designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Who pays for DNA testing? - A court can order payment by:
    • The party seeking the testing
    • The mother and alleged father
    • The government agency seeking the testing (if the man is found to be the biological father, he is usually ordered to reimburse the agency)
    • The state (if the parents are indigent)

Is DNA Testing the Only Way to Establish Fatherhood?

DNA testing only shows that there is a biological link between the father and the child. Courts have recognized that a father need not be genetically linked to the child. So a man can be the legal father of a child even if the DNA test rules out a biological link. 

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with DNA Testing?

It may be helpful to consult an experienced family lawyer. A family lawyer can help you establish or deny paternity and represent you in court.