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A Paternity Test Says You’re Not the Father. Now What?

Mar 6, 2019 | Legal Paternity Testing, Paternity

A paternity test says you're not the father. Now what?

It’s an all-too-common scenario: You start raising a child and get emotionally attached, as any good father would. Then you discover text messages or other red flags that seem to indicate your partner cheated on you during the time your child was conceived. You do a DNA paternity test and the results come back with the news you were hoping you wouldn’t see. A paternity test says you’re not the father. So now what?


NOTE: This article is not intended to be legal advice—it is for general informational purposes only. For guidance regarding your particular situation, please contact a social worker or family-law attorney in your area.


If You Never Married your Partner

When you never claimed the child legally

If you and your partner were never married and if you didn’t sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity document or birth certificate but want to maintain your relationship with the child, there are options.

This applies to most U.S. states: The best option is to claim legal guardianship, which you do by first filing a petition with the court in your state. The court decides whether or not you have a case, and will conduct extensive interviews with you, the mother, and the biological father as well (if he’s been identified through legal DNA testing).

There are some basic qualifications for legal guardianship that you should be aware of before going to all the trouble of starting the process:

  • You must be a legal adult
  • You must have time to care for the child
  • You must be able to afford to raise the child
  • You must be physically able to fulfill the responsibilities of a legal guardian
  • You must prove that you would be a positive influence on the child as well as a role model

The court always makes decisions based on what they deem to be in the best interest of the child, and once the process is complete and if they believe you have satisfied all their requirements, may determine you are qualified to be a legal guardian and continue your relationship with the child, providing the child’s biological parent gives their consent. If the parent(s) does (do) not give consent, you may still have a case for becoming a legal guardian if the parents are deemed unfit to raise the child.

When you claimed the child legally

If you never married the mother but did sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity or birth certificate, it is unlikely that the court would “let you off the hook” for support of that child or agree you should be reimbursed for any child support paid, even if your paternity test proved you are not the biological father.

Some states allow fathers to disestablish paternity so that they are no longer financially obligated for support, but the specific criteria are very narrow and this step rarely includes reimbursement for child support. You should consult a family-law attorney to see what your state law allows.

If You Are/Were Married to Your Partner

If the child was born during your marriage to the mother, you are by default considered the biological father and legal guardian of the child, in nearly all cases.
If you discover the child you thought was biologically yours really isn’t, the emotional pain can be excruciating and you may feel confused about your relationship with them. When a father named Chris discovered his 15-year-old daughter was the result of his wife’s affair, he struggled with knowing what to do. Ultimately, he divorced his wife but maintains his relationship with and support of his daughter—after all, he’s the only dad she’s ever known and he loves her dearly. Sometimes, DNA just doesn’t matter.

Wrapping It Up

The best way to prevent this trauma—especially if you and the mother of the child are not married—is to be proactive about determining paternity before agreeing to sign any acknowledgement of paternity or the birth certificate.

In most states, a man may only have two (2) years after the birth of a child to contest paternity.

After those two years, the process is much more difficult. Insisting on a legal paternity test after the baby’s born or a non-invasive prenatal paternity test before the baby’s born protects men against being trapped in legally-binding agreements and heart-wrenching relationships without full knowledge of your true relationship to the child.

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28 Comments

  1. Christi

    We have had 2 different DNA tests done, so why do they have different percentages on the side? Both had the same conclusion but the percentages were drastically different. Please explain.

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Christi.
      Before I can answer, I need some clarification, please.
      (1) Were the tests for the same people?
      (2) Were the two tests performed at the same lab?
      (3) What do you mean by “percentages?” Do you mean the paternity-index values (PI) for each marker tested, or do you mean the overall percentage for probability of paterity?

      Reply
  2. Misunderstanding

    If the alleged father went on the 22nd February and you and the child missed the date and you both went on the 7th of March.it took them until the 6th of April to send the results.plus the state worker made you swab both you and your child’s mouth can that effect the test.

    Reply
    • DDC

      No, it shouldn’t.

      Reply
  3. Yuliana

    el presunto padre no está excluido como el padre biológico del niño examinado. Según los resultados de las pruebas obtenidas de los loci de ADN listados, la probabilidad de paternidad es de 99.99999999999% esta probabilidad de paternidad se calcula comparando con un individuo aleatorio no relacionado, no probado y no relacionado de la población hispana (se supone que la probabilidad previa es igual a 0.50)….
    Eso quiere decir que si es su padre verdad?

    Reply
    • DDC

      Sí, él es el padre.

      Reply
  4. Dan

    In a Legal paternity test (married couple) if you are NOT the father are the test results for my eyes only ? Or are the results send to the facility that did the cheek swabs or state? Do I have the choice if I don’t want to do anything about my test results?

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Dan. I’ll answer each of your questions one by one:
      (1)When privately ordered directly through the lab, everyone possible father, mother, child) is entitled to get copies of results. This is true even if the mother didn’t contribute her DNA or agree to the test, because she’s the legal mother of the child and part of a married couple.The lab where testing was performed provides results directly to the client.
      (2) If a legal paternity test is ordered by the state, results are sent to the state.
      (3) Your third question is a legal one best answered by a family-law attorney or caseworker where you live.

      Reply
      • Dan

        Thanks you getting back so quickly when you said the lab where testing was performed provides results to the client is that the ddc or the place that you go have your cheek swabs? If it is the dcc then the result of the test are not sent to the place that did the cheek swabs just to the possible father mother and child is this correct?
        And your second question . If a legal paternity test is ordered by the state, results are sent to the state. Does this mean the state is the one who is making you do a paternity test if one is refusing to take a test ? If not when does this happen? Thank you for clearing this for me.

        Reply
        • DDC

          > Dan, results are sent directly to the client for a private DNA test and not to the DNA-collection site, that is correct. If the test is ordered by the state, results are sent to them and it is their job to make participants aware of results.
          > There are many reasons why the state might order a paternity test: most often because there’s a need to confirm paternity for custody or child-support rulings.
          > No one, not even the courts, can “force” someone to take a paternity test. But it’s important to know that if a test is ordered and a participant still refuses, chances are good the court will rule in a way that they deem is in the best interests of the child.

          Reply
  5. K Cyrus

    I recently found out from my adult son that he has had a dna test done with another man which revealed that he is his biological father. I am still paying off back child support and interest payments. what can I do?

    Reply
    • DDC

      Oh, that’s a shame. There may not be anything you can do at this point, but it’s worth asking a family-law attorney.

      Reply
  6. Jliver

    Hi. I live in Arkansas. I was recently hit with a paternity test for a three year old girl. Turns out I am the father. But the mother was married to another man at the time of birth and he is on the birth certificate. He wants rights to the child and is fighting the mother for them. I want nothing to do with it. However the mother has involved me to try to force me into establishing paternity to have his rights taken away. She then wants me to sign off my rights to her (since I do not want to be any part of it anyways and can’t afford the child support with two children of my own). Please someone give me some advice…

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Jliver. You definitely need to contact a family-law attorney in your area for guidance.

      Reply
  7. jim

    Recently my wife of 28 years passed. I had suspected that I was not the biological father of our 10 year old son, as he is a spitting image of her co-workers son. Since her passing, I took a paternity test and the results show 0% chance of me being the father. The co-workers son has been and is active in my sons life and I believe it’s a matter of time before he notices. I would appreciate any advice. Thank you.

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Jim. If the coworker’s son is over 18, then he can do a half-sibling test with your son if everyone agrees. If the coworker’s son is a minor, then permission from his legal parent would be required.

      Reply
  8. Ronny

    Hi, My daughter is 4 1/2 years old and I’m on her birth certificate. But now her mother says she’s not mine I’ve refused to take a DNA test. And I’ve been a huge figure in her life since birth. If mom test the other guy and he is the dad, can they keep my daughter from me?

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Ronny. What a stressful situation you’re in! You are under no obligation to agree to a DNA test unless a court compels you to. If you receive a court order, be sure to comply. If you don’t, you risk having the court rule against you even if a DNA test would have proven your daughter is biologically yours. Let’s say you do a court-ordered test and it comes back you’re not the father. The court always acts in the best interest of the child; so even if the DNA test proves you’re not the father, they’ll take into account your excellent track record as a father and rule accordingly. It’s probably a good idea to start looking for a good family-law attorney.

      Reply
  9. Ashley

    I was wondering if tests from amazon are trust worthy paternity tests? I did both on alleged father and both came back that he is not the father my child’s nose is the same shape as his and nothing like mine or the other man

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Ashley. We cannot vouch for other companies’ tests. However, it’s important to keep in mind that physical characteristics are never an absolute determinant of paternity. The child may have inherited a nose from their biological grandparents. Only DNA can tell for sure who a parent is.

      Reply
      • Ashley

        When I got my results from the stk paternity test it had the ddc logo on the results. So are they associated with this company ddc or not?

        Reply
        • DDC

          We do the lab work for STK, yes. Any other questions about STK or your results should be addressed to them directly, however.

          Reply
  10. David

    Hi I had my daughter out of wedlock. My gf and I broke up when my daughter was 2 and she is now 9. In never had a paternity test and we have never been to court. I have my daughter prob 60% of the time to her 40%. If I got a paternity test and she isn’t mine can I still keep my parental rights at this point? I have been her dad for 9 years. It’s all she knows.

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, David. Every state has different paternity rules. That being said, if you are on the birth certificate, then you have legally accepted responsibility for the child, and the court may require you to continue providing support no matter what a DNA test says. It’s a good idea to contact a family-law attorney in your area who specializes in paternity law.

      Reply
  11. Judy

    My husband who is deceased had a son . She was pregnant and they were married about 1 year. My husband always doubted he was the father. His son who is now 43 , was told by his mother that my husband was not his father. Can I take her to court to get back child support? My husband did get custody when he was 15.

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Judy. That is a question best answered by a family-law attorney near you, since paternity law varies from state to state. Good luck!

      Reply
  12. Jordan

    Hi, Found out that I Have a 3 year old daughter saw a picture of her, she looked just like me and I did a test with her and the mother. She’s mine, however the current Legal fathers name is on the birth certificate and also has custody over her. I have just found out about this and want the opportunity to raise my biological daughter. We haven’t contacted him yet I just don’t know what the best course of action is since I never had the chance to be there or had any say in this matter. It all happened without my knowledge until just now. I want the opportunity to give my child what I never had growing up. Is there anything I can do? (State: CA)

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Jordan. Since paternity law varies by state, I suggest you contact a California family-law attorney to see what your options are.

      Reply

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