When a child is born, a birth certificate is filed which names his parents. Establishing the mother’s identity at birth is usually a simple matter as she is physically connected to the infant. Establishing the father’s identity may not be as straightforward, sometimes requiring a paternity test (here is our list of the best paternity tests currently available).
Legally, paternity is usually established at birth. If a married woman gives birth, her husband is assumed to be the father. If she is unmarried, her partner can file an AOP or Acknowledgement of Paternity and he will be listed on the birth certificate as the father.
The birth certificate is filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics and after a 60 day period during which information can be amended, establishes the legal parents of the child.
Sometimes establishing paternity can be complex, however. If a woman is married, but her husband is not the child’s father, the biological father must file an AOP and the husband must file a Denial of Paternity.
If a woman gives birth who has had two or more sexual partners, she can pursue paternity testing. A partner may willingly test if he wants to establish paternity or prove he is not the father or the court may have to intervene and order that paternity testing be done.
How Paternity Testing Works
A paternity test involves taking DNA samples from both the possible father and the child. Samples can be obtained from the man by drawing blood or by taking a cheek swab. A sample of the child’s DNA can be obtained from tissue taken from the infant’s umbilical cord or a sample can be collected from an unborn child while the mother is having prenatal testing; either amniocentesis or Chorionic villus sampling.
DNA samples are then compared, generally using one of two methods. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a recently developed method of analyzing DNA. PCR offers quick results, returning answers within a few days. In addition, PCR requires only a small amount of sample, making it compatible with the less invasive cheek swab.
The other commonly used method of DNA analysis is Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism or RFLP. RFLP has been the method of choice for laboratories for years, offering a higher degree of accuracy than PCR. RFLP tests a larger sample of DNA, so it is generally used with a blood sample. The drawback of RFLP is that results take longer to obtain, as much as two weeks.
The reliability of results may be important if paternity is being legally contested. Results will either conclusively rule out a man as the father or confirm with 99.99% certainty that he is the infant’s biological father.
Benefits Of Paternity Testing
Establishing paternity is very important for a child. Socially and emotionally, it is beneficial for a child to know who his or her biological father is, even if that father is not present. Financially, establishing paternity safeguards the child’s legal rights, ensuring his or her eligibility for any child support, social security benefits, veteran’s benefits, medical insurance or inheritance that he or she might be entitled to from his or her father. Additionally, it may be medically necessary to know about a child’s genetic history in order to quickly diagnose a genetically inherited disease.
Where To Get A Paternity Test?
Paternity tests are readily available, from Internet and drug store kits to accredited DNA laboratories. Prices run from $100 for the do-it-yourself variety to a range of $400 to $2,000 for testing conducted at an accredited lab. Unless testing is done simply to satisfy curiosity, it is probably a good idea to choose a lab accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks, especially if results may be needed to stand up in court proceedings.