When two parties need a legal DNA test to determine or verify the paternity of a child, but the parties live in different states, the process can become complicated based on federal and state paternity laws. Even if both parties are agreeable to a DNA test, certain conditions apply. If they don’t follow the correct procedures for handling the testing, they might find the courts do not accept the paternity report. This can affect custody, visitation, child support, and citizenship claims.
Child-support issues involved with custody go beyond financial payments; they can also include whether or not a child can be covered under a father’s health insurance and/or receive survivor benefits. Understanding the basics of multi-state DNA testing can help you take the proper steps to ensure you meet your legal requirements for providing samples and getting them tested.
Establish Jurisdiction
The first step in dealing with DNA testing when the two parties reside in different states is to determine where the claims will be heard. When the two parties involved are cooperative, attorneys might not need to be involved. State social services workers can help parents or alleged parents with the administrative paperwork, DNA sample collecting, testing, and submission to the appropriate court or federal agency. The two parties might wish to choose to have jurisdiction in the state with laws more favorable to their circumstances, if possible.
If the parties are at odds, each might fight to get jurisdiction in the state of his or her choice, going through a juvenile, family, or civil court. This is especially true when there is a question of which parent should have legal custody. At this point, attorneys often become involved, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act and/or Uniform Interstate Family Support Act might come into play.
The courts use a number of criteria to determine custody, and once custody is ascertained, the two parties are notified of the procedures for voluntarily submitting DNA samples, or told if the court is ordering one party to be tested.
Once you know where your legal situation will be determined, have your attorney review with you the procedures you’ll need to follow to fulfill a legally valid DNA test. In cases of citizenship disputes or confirmation (e.g., when a child is born abroad), you might need to work with a federal agency, such as a U.S. consulate office.
Chain of Custody
Before you begin looking for a lab to handle your DNA testing, learn what the DNA chain-of-custody requirements are, based on which court or agency is handling your case. You will need to use a neutral third-party facility to handle collection and testing of samples. Under federal statutes, each state must have provisions for requiring a father to submit to a DNA test and procedures for carrying out the process. This can include ordering an unwilling alleged father to submit to a test, with the state in which the defendant lives responsible for paying the costs of the test and coordinating the collection and testing procedure with the plaintiff’s state.
During DNA testing, you might have your DNA samples collected at one clinic or lab and then tested at another. In these cases, you might be able to give your sample at a satellite collection facility of a testing lab in one state and then have it sent to the testing lab in the other. In cases of citizenship claims, samples might need to be taken at a consular office, especially if the procedure needs to be done overseas.
You are not allowed to directly receive a DNA test and take it to a facility for sample collection or testing. Make sure you arrange to have your kit sent to your chosen, approved facility. This facility will take the sample from you and then send it to a testing facility. You will need to provide identification, such as a passport, driver’s license, birth certificate or other government ID. Taking a sample usually requires just a mouth swab to collect DNA.
Authorized Facilities
For legal rulings, DNA testing to ascertain paternity needs to be done at an approved facility that is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks. There are about 40 accredited DNA testing labs in the U.S., according to the AABB. If you want to maximize the chances that your test will be accurate, ask the lab if it tests each sample twice. An alleged or admitting father, the mother, and the child need to be tested, unless the father is missing. In those cases, a relative or relatives of the alleged father can be tested.