Prenatal Paternity Tests

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What Is Prenatal Paternity?

Prenatal paternity is testing that is done before birth to determine whether a man is the father of an unborn child. Prenatal paternity testing is a relatively new technology. In the past, paternity testing was done after an infant has already been born, sometimes several years or even decades later. 

The process of determining paternity during pregnancy involves taking DNA samples from the amniotic fluid of the mother, from fetal cells, or through “chorionic villus sampling.” Thus, prenatal paternity testing is associated with numerous health risks for both the child and the mother, including miscarriage and birth defects. 

Are Prenatal Paternity Tests Legal? 

The area of law governing prenatal paternity testing is also very new. However, prenatal paternity tests are legal and have already been introduced to the market for consumer use, often with claims of it being a “non-invasive” procedure. 

Can the Results of a Prenatal Paternity Test Be Used in Court?

In general, courts do not recommend the use of prenatal paternity testing as a means of identifying the father of an unborn child. The standard practice of nearly all courts is to wait until well after the baby has been delivered before a paternity test will be considered. Some courts will even suspend divorce proceedings if a pregnancy arises after hearings have begun.

Thus, results that are obtained from a prenatal paternity test will likely not be admissible in court as evidence. Only results from methods approved under paternity test laws are admissible in court.  However, some jurisdictions are slowly approving the use of prenatal paternity testing for court purposes. 

Why Aren't Prenatal Paternity Tests Used in Court?

The main concern with prenatal paternity tests for use in legal proceedings is that the risk of harm to the child greatly outweighs the benefits identifying the father earlier. In fact, most providers of DNA tests do not recommend the prenatal DNA testing if the only purpose is to establish paternity. 
However, as prenatal testing technology advances, health risks may be reduced or minimized. Over time, the court policies may change with the new advancements.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are considering prenatal paternity testing, you should understand that the results may not be admissible as evidence during a paternity hearing.  A family law attorney can help you find other paternity testing alternatives that are approved by the court system.  Also, if you have suffered any injuries or losses due to a defective prenatal paternity testing procedure, a lawyer in your area can help you with your claim.

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Last Modified: 10-02-2014 09:03 PM PDT

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