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

Mar 6, 2019 | 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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Do you have questions or comments about a legal paternity test? Share in the comments and we’ll answer.

44 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
      • Ivan

        Married in california 10 years 3 kids mom tells me 2 years later I’m not the father of the 3child my name on birth certificate and taxes what can I do to get those rights for 3rd child mother does not let me see him for 8 months until we go to court

        Reply
        • DDC

          Hi, Ivan. That is a question best answered by a family-law lawyer in California.

          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
      • Cassie

        Hi my boyfriend just took a dna test for his 5 year old son from a past relationship and come to found out That he is not the father. So my question is what is the next step he should be taking right now legally. He have two son with her the other one turn out to be his. He still want to be in his life even after the results but what are the legal step to take.

        Reply
        • DDC

          Hi, Cassie. Paternity law varies by states, so he should contact a family-law attorney to see what next steps should be.

          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
      • Andrea

        Who should tell a man who’s thought he was the biological father for 35 years that the paternity test says he’s not?

        Reply
        • DDC

          Hi, Andrea. That is an entirely personal decision with no one-size-fits-all answer.

          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
  13. Jim

    My daughter is 23 . Her mother and I separated when she was 10 months old . I fought and won custody of her and her 2 year old brother ( he was 5 when I won custody ) I raised her with my 2nd wife ( We got together 4 years after the initial separation , no funny business ) Well the other day , my daughters results came back from an ancestry site . I have had mine for a couple of years . Well low and behold , It appears I’m not her biological father . Spent the last 2 days crying and wanting to curl up in a ball and die . Has anyone else experienced this and if so , how did you get through it ?

    Reply
    • DDC

      Oh Jim, I’m so sorry to hear that. There are support groups for NPE (Not Parent Expected) on web sites as well as on Facebook. There are lots of folks out there just like you, I promise.

      Reply
      • Jim

        Thank you . My daughter and I will get through this together . It is still very new to us . Her Mom lives 3,000 miles away and both of my kids on saw her on occasion . Both went to live with her when they were teens but it was short lived .
        Ex wife is still claiming her innocence . I’m leaving it up to my daughter if she wants a DNA test or not . Still love her the same no matter what

        Reply
  14. XDA

    My girl friend and I had a baby. I worked away for weeks at a time. I signed the birth certificate because I believe her when she the baby was mine. Now looking at the baby at 10 months and the baby doesn’t look nothing like me. My girl friend has a son by another man and the baby looks just like her and her son. If I get a DNA and the baby is not mine do I have to pay child support.

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, XDA. Physical characteristics are subjective and therefore are never absolute proof of relationship. Only DNA can tell for sure. Paternity law varies, but in many cases the court will sustain a judgment for child support no matter the outcome because in signing the birth certificate you took legal responsibility for the child. You should contact a family-law attorney for options.

      Reply
  15. Kalaeb

    OK so I was with a girl for six years and she was still married we found out that she was pregnant and she always told me there was no doubt in her mind that I was the father and I believed I was also we booth before she became pregnant had a habbit that we booth became sober and stayed sober my daughter was born a bit over two years ago and a couple most this after we had her I became depressed and scared of not being good in her life this caused me to stay away from home now this is in no feeling of me not loving my daughter I love her with everything I am I would never fully abandon her but I ran from myself and stayed away from home so she would not feel my energy if this makes much sense the bond that connects me and her from her listibingvto my voice and feeling my touch as she grew in her moma is to me a very real and strong connection me and her momma seoerated and at first she did not keep her and I from eachither we got to get her a few times a week and it was going well but as time went on she started taking our time away and setting deadlines for me to make changes or she would take more time away to where she would as only letting me see her once a month for like an hour. I stays depressed never taught her or caused any disruption that would created stress or anger in either her or me for our daughters best interest so I followed what she wanted she promised me she would never take her out of my life or try to keep her away she knew I love my daughter to no end and would never put harm or do anything to lead or not be there for her but I was on my own in dealing with my depression an would not talk to me or let me go to her church she gave no slak forcing me to try and be strong enough to do it on my own for our daughter the more time she took and the mor she did not let me be involved in for her first years growing the more deoresed and lost I but can be t I never stooed trying to see her or be around her I asked and tried till I came for my visit last month it was great all three of us as usual had a great time my daughter as always was so excited to be with me and we put her to bed I went to leave she asked me to stay because a couple friends we’re coming to support her life through something she wanted to say they shows up and out of no where she said she had a dream that our daughter got sic she took her to the hospital and the doctor checked her out and said she was fine but she should know that the man you say is her father is not her father . so because of this dream she got a test online asked me if I would take it I agreed thinking there was no doubt she even told me she really did not doubt it rather but she said no Ben if it comes out as you ar not I want you to know I am not taking her out of your life or her from yours you will still be her papa if you still feel that way I of course would feel no different if I was not I. We were bonded from day one and will always be connected I know so I took the swab now I did not watch her swab my daughter she did that after I left the next day she said and she nt it off and she got the results last week which she said were not a positive that I was not her biological father it broke my heart some but yet I of as still happy beacus she is as still my daughter I’ve Ben her papa for two years and good owing in her belley for 8 months she and I love each other with out a doubt our bond will be there for ever but unexpectedly never in my mind was I ready for what she did after I went and met her at the park last weekend we had a amazing afternoon at the park I raked up a pile of leaves she had never jumped in a pile of leaves yet so I we rolls in them and laughs till it was time for them to head home I called her a couple days later trying to ask if I could see her again that I had a jacket and some other winter cloths to give her and she said no the next day she called me asking to talk to me and when I called she broke every bit of haoinessbi have in me she said that she has chose for her best interest to not have me in her life any longer that she talked to a councalor and they agreed and that I was basicly for the last two years just in her life as a fun play day and I was not a good role model for her to look up to or to teach her I. Good so I was. Not going to see her any more its best she does not want to confuse her beacus one day. She will be asking where her father is and who he is now why would she ever think that being show knows me as her papa from the minute she was born I helps pull her catch her wrap her and I held her to my bare chest crying even before her momma beacus she was loosing blood and not doing well I need to know what do I need to do to fight for my daughter to have each other stay in our lives her mommashould not be able to break us away this way is there another way I can have a test done that is for shire done right one that other whiteness or I witness me and her being swabd with out a doubt beacus I’m torn apart not having her in my life as I know she will be also what is her mama thinking she will never forget me and I am not some gie that does not want to be a good parent in her life I’ve got my obsticles I am fighting in my life but never have I put any of them I. Or around her more would I ever and I’m fighting for help with what I need to overcome doing things alone with out having lived ones standing with you and how lping you through things is not a easy struggle but I fight to do it and will do it what ar my opshions where can I start for awnsers I’ll do whatever I need to to have her in my life growing up anything I can just point me I. The place to start and I’ll put everything I’ve got into loving her through our lifes

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Kalaeb. I suggest you contact a family-law attorney to help determine if you have a strong enough case to request paternity testing through the courts.

      Reply
  16. Bob

    I got involved with a woman who told me she was done with her boyfriend. We had intercourse and then I found out she was pregnant, but then the bombshell news she also had done things with her “ex”

    He walked in on her taking a pregnancy test the next day and immediately assumed it was his, and told his family. I was told that she was going to leave him for me but took several months of delaying it, always pushing it off for this or that.

    She says no matter what the results are she wants me to be as much the dad, but it seems I’m only good enough to be the father privately, as she doesn’t want this perfect picture of this family portrait to be ruined.

    She stayed with her boyfriend for months living there, I’d see her when he was at work. I was continually told she would leave him, she eventually did, but I’m still not publicly her boyfriend because she doesn’t want the backlash of that yet, let alone the idea I could very well be the father.

    With COVID I can’t be in the delivery room, and she’s planning on staying at this guys house for the first two weeks after the baby. Meaning I won’t be able to really interact or see the baby.

    What should I do? It’s hard enough trying to make things work as a couple considering he doesn’t know about me, and my only real entry here is as her boyfriend, since I’m not publicly the dad. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his role…

    I said even if the results came back as mine I would want this person to be as much involved as me, since he’s as attached as I am. I want to be fair and gracious in this situation, but I feel like I’ve gave and gave so much so they can keep this illusion of a perfect family…

    What are some things I should be aware of? I feel like if we break up my role is literally gone, since this guy has assumed the role of the dad publicly.

    The baby has a few months before she’s here. I went to the gender reveal, but only as a guest…it made me feel so alone, I was almost invisible. I’ve felt invisible for the whole process. Didn’t get picked the name.

    I asked her if I should walk away, she wants me to be a part of this but doesn’t want to do anything in the slightest to inconvenience this other person and his family.

    I need a seat at the table too.

    Reply
    • DDC

      Hi, Bob. That sounds like a rough situation to be in. What I always recommend is that a man not commit to anything until a legal paternity test has been performed. This will protect you from future heartache. If she refuses, then you have two years to have it addressed through the courts. When you’re emotionally involved, it’s hard to face the reality that you may be getting played, so you have to do whatever you can to protect yourself financially. That baby may very well not be yours.

      Reply

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