Don’t know if a child is yours? DNA is the answer. In most cases, an analysis is performed using cheek-swab DNA samples from the possible father, child, and mother (her participation is optional, but recommended). If you’re interested in how to get a paternity test, here are several options available to you, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.
How to Get a Paternity Test
There are three basic methods to get a paternity test: using an at-home kit (purchased at a retail store or online), ordering a legal paternity test directly from an accredited laboratory, or getting a legal test performed via court order.
1. Using an At-Home Paternity Test Kit
Buying an at-home kit is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get a paternity test. Some kits can be purchased at drugstores, and most are sold online.
Advantages: The kit and lab fee are relatively inexpensive and you can collect DNA quickly, painlessly, and easily, in the comfort of your own home. Even newborns can have their cheeks swabbed for testing.
Disadvantages: Test results are not court-admissible, since the identities of the participants are not verified by a third party.
2. Ordering a Legal Test from a Laboratory
If you need results for any legal reason, you have a different option besides hiring a lawyer or going through the court system: just talk to an accredited lab directly. A quality lab can make arrangements for a legal test with court-admissible results for cases involving:
- Inheritance rights
- Child support
- Child custody
Advantages: Results are accepted as legal proof of relationship; it can be a more cost-effective way to get court-admissible results since you’re dealing with the lab directly; the process is fast; dealing directly with the lab is secure.
Disadvantages: There are additional fees for required witnessed DNA-collection services.
3. Going through the Courts for Legal Testing
If you prefer, a lawyer can take care of arranging the test for you by setting up your case first and having the court order one, if the court deems it necessary.
Advantages: In most cases the court orders it from the lab directly and makes arrangements for you; you may or may not have to pay for testing, depending on the court’s judgment.
Example: Let’s say you are the mother in a case. If there is a denial of paternity by the alleged father and the results come back positive, the court can order the father to pay the costs of the DNA tests.
Disadvantages: You are at the mercy of the court as to when and how you’ll see results of testing; if you have questions about results, you cannot directly contact the lab used by the court for testing—you must address all question to the court; you will need to pay for your attorney.
The most important takeaway is this: You cannot use at-home test results for a court case, so be sure to select your test carefully. Still not sure how to get a paternity test or which one might be the best choice for you? Beware of new pop-up paternity services; instead, be sure to call an accredited lab like DDC for guidance.