There are several reasons why you might want a paternity test. Read our expert guide to doing it right and getting the right results.
What is a paternity test?
As the name suggests, a paternity test is used to establish the relationship between a child and one or more alleged fathers. DNA samples are collected from the child and each suspected father. In some cases a sample is also taken from the mother.
There are two possible outcomes of a paternity test – it will either confirm that the child and alleged father are definitely not related, or it will confirm that they are related with over 99.99% certainty.
How does the test work?
There are numerous ways to collect a person’s DNA, but the easiest method is via a simple cheek swab. It’s quick, easy, non-invasive and reliable. In a standard paternity test, a cheek sample is taken from the child and the potential father. The samples are then sent off to the lab for analysis, and the results are either emailed or posted back – typically within a few days.
Some DNA labs are also able to extract a DNA sample from a person’s toothbrush. This is ideal if a sample is needed from older children, as it can be done discreetly and avoids awkward questions or difficult conversations. Bear in mind however that anyone over 18 must provide their written consent to be tested. With children, the person with parental responsibility must give consent on the child’s behalf.
Different types of tests
There are two main kinds of paternity test. A home test – also known as a peace of mind test – can be carried out in the comfort of your own home. The results are simply for your own peace of mind, and cannot be used to settle legal matters.
A legal DNA test is carried out by a doctor or a trained sample collector, and the samples are transported back to the lab under a controlled chain of custody. A legal test can be used to settle legal disputes and immigration matters.
Both tests are accurate, but only the legal test can be used for official matters.
Can you have a paternity test while you are still pregnant?
Yes. In the past, a prenatal paternity test was a risky and invasive procedure which most doctors wouldn’t do unless there was a serious medical reason. Nowadays however, scientists have developed a safer method that simply involves taking a blood sample from the mother. The father provides a cheek swab and the two DNA samples are compared in the lab.
How much does a DNA test cost?
It depends on a number of factors – such as the type of test, how many people need to be tested and how quickly you want the results. A basic peace of mind test involving one child and one father can cost as little as £100, whereas a prenatal test involving multiple people could cost in excess of £1,000.
How do I find a trustworthy testing company?
There are several DNA companies offering their services online. Whichever you choose, make sure they are an accredited lab – look out for ISO certifications and check to see if they are approved by the Ministry of Justice.