Recent government statistics show that roughly 40% of all births in the United States are to single mothers. Married women may be unsure whether or not their husband is the biological father of their child. If you have questions about the paternity of your child, a prenatal paternity test may be what you need.

Prenatal paternity tests are highly personal subjects that often come with societal, ethical, and moral dilemmas. Even if you’re still pregnant, DNA science allows for paternity questions to be answered. Read on for an overview of everything you need to know about prenatal paternity testing.

Do I Need a Paternity Test?

There is no doubt about it: families can be complicated. In a perfect world, family members (especially parents) would all get along, adults would always prioritize children’s best interests, and children would always know their parents and have wonderful, loving relationships with them.

Sadly, this, of course, is not always the case. Too often, parents don’t consider the effect their behavior has on their children. Too often, parents don’t want to take responsibility for their children. Too often, parents try to alienate each other from their children.

This is where prenatal paternity tests may be helpful in order to preserve the legal rights of each parent or hold the other parent accountable.

What is a Prenatal Paternity Test?

There are several kinds of paternity tests. After a baby is born, a blood sample can be collected from the baby’s umbilical cord, which would be tested to determine the baby’s father. A swab of the baby’s cheek can also be tested to determine the baby’s DNA. However, these are options to test paternity after the baby is born.

Many kinds of paternity tests can also be done before the baby is born, in some cases as early as seven weeks gestation. Some tests are more invasive, requiring a doctor to go into the baby’s amniotic sac or the mother’s uterus. But, other tests are non-invasive and only require a blood sample from the mother.

Why Do You Need a Prenatal Paternity Test?

It is possible to wait until after the baby is born to establish paternity. However, there may be times when it is important to perform a paternity test before a baby is born.

Paternity may impact several aspects of the baby’s and mother’s lives, including:

  • The child’s ability to inherit from their father’s estate
  • The child’s ability to inherit veteran’s benefits or social security benefits from their father
  • Establishing custody and visitation schedules and obtaining child support
  • Understanding of the child’s medical history to better provide medical care for the child, and more.

Each parent may have specific reasons for needing a prenatal paternity test. A mother may want or need to collect child support on behalf of her unborn child. Pregnancy can be expensive.

Pregnancy can take a financial toll. Between prenatal vitamins and numerous doctor’s appointments plus ultrasounds and other medical tests, pregnancies are often highly expensive. Some states allow a mother to seek child support from the baby’s father before the baby is born. However, typically, the court requires a paternity test in such situations. No prenatal paternity test means no child support.

A father may also be interested in establishing paternity before the baby is born. Some men want very much to be a part of their child’s life. They are willing, able, and eager to take responsibility for their child. However, occasionally, the mother does not want the baby’s biological father in their lives.

Further, if a mother is married, the child is presumed to be the husband’s child. If a man believes he has fathered a child with a married woman, that man must establish paternity to overcome the presumption that the baby is the husband’s child instead.

When the baby is born, a father can also sign an affidavit of paternity. This is essentially a voluntary, legal admission of paternity. No paternity test is usually required, although some states do require a formal test. There is a risk to a father that someone else could sign this document and become the legal father instead.

For a father who is not married to the baby’s mother, it is critical that the father seek a paternity test to secure his rights to custody and visitation of the child.

How Do I Get a Prenatal Paternity Test?

Unfortunately, there are situations in which one of the parents will not cooperate in determining paternity. The father or mother can file a petition with the court ordering a paternity test in such cases. Refusing to submit to the paternity test may result in the parent being held in contempt of court.

Once paternity is established, the biological father will also become the legal father. This means that the court can order child support from the legal father, and the child can be a beneficiary of the father’s financial benefits and estate.

What are the Benefits of Establishing Legal Paternity?

When a child’s legal father is known, the parent and child have an opportunity to create a lifelong bond. The father will have the responsibility to provide financial support for the child and share the right to custody or visitation. Establishing legal paternity allows both parents to participate in important decisions in a child’s life.

Legal paternity is also required for children to be eligible for certain benefits, such as health insurance plans offered by the father’s employer, military benefits, or veteran benefits. Social Security benefits and inheritance also require legal paternity to be established.

How Much Does Prenatal DNA Testing Cost?

The cost of genetic testing for pregnancy can range from less than $100 to over $1,000. Most tests are covered by insurance. Insurance is more likely to cover testing if there is a health risk associated with the pregnancy.

How Accurate are Prenatal Paternity Tests?

Prenatal paternity tests are extremely accurate. Non-invasive prenatal DNA paternity tests usually provide 99.9% accuracy. Advanced DNA screening available after the 8th week of gestation analyzes traces of the child’s DNA found in blood samples from the mother or father.

Can Prenatal Paternity Tests be Wrong?

It is rare for a prenatal paternity test to be wrong. The acceptable rate for most paternity tests is over 90 percent. If the DNA sample matches DNA from the child, mother, and father, prenatal paternity tests’ likelihood of accuracy is 99.9%. Cheek swabs and blood tests also have the same rate of accuracy. Non-invasive paternity tests can be just as accurate as invasive tests.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Want a Paternity Test?

Paternity cases are relatively common. If you are unmarried and pregnant, determining custody of your child as soon as possible may help secure your and your child’s rights and financial resources. On the other hand, if you believe you are the father of a child and wish to be in that child’s life, then it is important that you establish paternity as early as possible.

In a perfect world, these measures wouldn’t be necessary. But, unfortunately, that is not always so. Contact a family lawyer today to preserve your rights and ensure that your child has the best future possible.