legal paternity test vs. home paternity test


If you’re planning on doing a DNA paternity test soon, it’s extremely important to know the differences between a legal paternity test and a home paternity test before making this all-important purchase. There are some very key differences—here’s a fast overview.


Legal Paternity Test Results are Court-admissible

As a top paternity testing lab, we often hear from customers who have done a home paternity test and now want to use the results from that test for child support or child custody. But they can’t! Courts in the United States will not accept results from a home paternity test. The reason is because—with a home paternity test—the court has no way of verifying if the DNA submitted for testing actually belongs to the people whose names are listed on the test.

Home paternity test results are for “peace of mind” or personal-information purposes only.

A legal paternity test can help with child support

A legal paternity test can help with child support

Legal paternity test results are court-admissible and can be used in cases involving:

  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Immigration
  • Inheritance rights
  • Adoption
  • Social security
  • And more


The DNA Collection Process is Different

For a home paternity test:

  1. You pick up the DNA collection kit at participating retailers or purchase online
  2. One you receive the kit, you swab the inside of the cheeks of the child, possible father, and the mother (her participation is optional, but recommended)
  3. You mail the DNA samples to the lab
  4. Results are posted in one (1) business day, if you test with DDC
    Taking paternity test samples

    DNA Collection

For a legal paternity test:

  1. You call the lab directly at 800-681-7162 to order the test
  2. The customer-service specialist makes an appointment for test participants at a local approved DNA collection center in your area
  3. Per AABB accreditation requirements for legal testing, the specialist mails a DNA collection kit directly to the collection center (you cannot bring a kit to the center yourself)
  4. The DNA Sample Collector verifies the identities of test participants and that proof is ultimately included in the paternity-test report, which is what makes results court-admissible
  5. The Collector either witnesses participants swabbing their own cheeks or may assist participants, if needed
  6. The Collector completes all paperwork, packages up DNA samples, and ships samples off to the lab
  7. Once samples arrive at the lab, results are posted in one (1) business day, if you test with DDC

Once samples are at the lab and testing begins, the process itself is exactly the same for a home paternity test as it is for a legal paternity test.



Because a legal test requires the services of a DNA Collector, there is an additional cost per participant. Other than this collection fee for court-admissible testing, there are no other price differences between legal and home paternity testing.


Final Thoughts about a Legal Paternity Test vs. a Home Paternity Test

Even if you don’t anticipate ever needing to go to court, if there is even a chance it could happen someday, it’s worth it to pay a little extra to get a legal test.  No matter which test is right for you, be selective in choosing the lab that will perform this potentially life-changing service—reputation for excellence and accuracy in results are more important than a rock-bottom price.

Don’t hesitate to call us at 800-929-0847: We’re here to help.


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



  1. if i will be going to a clinic to get my child and the alleged father tested but we will not be using this for court purposes, will my test results have any names on it ? Since i will be going to a clinic the samples collected there are accurate with the names right ?

    • Hi, Karla! It depends on which lab the clinic contracts with to do the testing. Since the test is for peace-of-mind only and the legal process mandated by the AABB accrediting agency is not necessarily being followed, if the clinic processes through DDC, there will not be any names on the report. If the clinic contracts with a different lab, that lab may have different guidelines it follows and allows names to be printed. If you test with DDC, the only way to get names on the report is if you pay a little extra for results to be court-admissible.

      • So even though it will be done at a clinic since it is a peace of mind test the clinic will not act as a third party and it will specifically address that on the results ? Because i am assuming since the clinic that i will be going through is through DDC the laboratory will know where the samples came from and will act as a third party. I am just trying to make sure since i will not be using this in court but i don’t want the alleged father to think that this is a fake result.

        • It has to be a legal test and follow AABB processes in order to have names on the test, no matter where DNA is collected.

  2. “Note: Since the samples were not collected under a strict chain of custody by a third neutral party, and the laboratory cannot verify the origin of the samples, this test result may not be defensible in a court of law for the establishment of paternity and other legally related issues. The tested parties expressly understand that the result from this test is only for personal knowledge and curiosity. ” so what does this mean ? If I went to a clinic why does it say it wasn’t collected by a third party and the laboratory cannot verify the origin of the samples ? I’m just a little confused with the NOTE part.

    • It means that all of the criteria outlined in that paragraph of text must be met in order for the results to be accepted in court. The clinic has to be a facility approved by our lab in order for us to issue court-admissible results. If you want to ensure you results are court-admissible, just call us to make sure all the proper steps are being followed and that the clinic where you will be tested is approved. We must send them case paperwork, etc.

      • I get that part. But if I went to a clinic through you guys why is it saying that the lab cannot confirm where the samples came from and that it wasn’t collected by a third party ? I called the clinic and they told me that their sole purpose is to act as a third party. Not I understand that it was a curiosity test and I cannot use this in court. But if I went into a clinic and they are the third party I dot get why that NOTE is on my test results.

        • I’m just a little confused because when i went to the clinic to get the samples collected the ID’s were collected and pictures were taken. So i do not get why my results still say that they were not collected by a third party.

          • It is most likely because it was not set up as a legal test. Please give us a call at 800-681-7162 to discuss your case further and to see what can be done. Our specialists can look up your case and discuss it with you confidentially. Thanks!

  3. So if it was not set up as a legal test then it will say that it was not collected by a third neutral party even though it was since i went through the clinic that you guys provided as a third party ?

    • The whole chain of custody process must be followed…just doing the testing at a DDC-approved facility does not mean the test was a legal one. We must set up the test and monitor the whole process from start to finish.

      • I understand that. So you’re telling me that even though i went to a clinic provided by you guys that my test results will say that the lab cannot confirm where the samples came from and that it was not collected by a third party because it was just a peace of mind test ?

    • Also it will say that the lab cannot confirm where the results came from even though i know i went to a clinic and so does the lab ?

      • As i understand that my test was not done for legal purposes i do not get why if i went into a clinic my results are saying that it is not confirmed where the samples came from and that i did not get these samples by a third party when all of the above was collected by a third party provided by you.

          • I’m sorry, Karla, but I think I answered this as best I can in a public forum without having access to your case. Please give us a call at 800-681-7162 and our specialists can look up your case and give you further clarification privately.

  4. I used you guys for a DNA test that my husband needed from a previous relationship and child. We were only doing for personal knowledge although of course believing the child was most likely his. It came back in the mail,online etc that 0% probability. Child support and legal issues have been involved so as you’ve said they can not use this personal knowledge test in court. Got it court ordered for this person to get it done. What are the odds that you guys test was him not being the biological father and a court ordered test being that he is? Is this possible?

    • Hi, Jamie. We’ve seen this kind of outcome from time to time. In every single case, when the DNA profiles for the two tests were compared against each other, those profiles were different. So of course results may be different too. Sometimes, when doing at at-home test, fraud can occur. The man may submit someone else’s DNA as his own, or the mother may submit someone else’s DNA instead of her child’s. That’s why, when doing a home test, we always recommend that participants be together to witness each other’s DNA collection and even the mailing. If that’s not possible, then they should just do a legal, witnessed test the first time. In your case, as long as the DNA is exactly the same for the second test as it was for the first, you can expect the exact same outcome. Hope this helps!

  5. How long does it take for the results to come through the Mail? It was done as a legal test through dhs. They said they sent the samples overnight. Just want to know an estimated wait time. Thanks..

    • Hi, Dee. Since you are working with DHS, and not directly with us, you’ll need to get an estimate from them as to when they’ll release your report to you.

  6. HI
    I just received the results of our DNA test. Currently the father is in a long term care facility. How do I go about getting another test done for legal purposes if father cant be verified by coming into a local DNA testing lab?.

  7. I have tested with The prosecution courts-family division in my area for paternity establishment exactly 19 days ago, and the papers state that testing samples were sent to DDC. I have not received an email for login info yet. How long can they take? Some say results are posted in 1 business day, others say two to six weeks.

    • Hi, Rebe. It may be that your results have been ready and the courts for whatever reason simply haven’t released them to you yet. We only do the testing in these cases; we don’t have any control over how results are released. Please contact them for more information about your test since we are not allowed to discuss directly with you. Sorry about that!

  8. My son took a paternity through your company. His ex-girlfriend said the test came back negative, but she doesn’t believe it, and she won’t send the results to him. Is there a way for him to get the results directly from you? I am writing to you because he doesn’t have a phone or computer at this time. She wants him to take another test. How likely is it that the first test was wrong?

    • Hi, Beryl. As a participant in the test, he can definitely see the results, but he has to call us directly (you cannot call for him). You can be sure that the results were correct for the samples we were given. We are a highly-accredited lab with strict processes in place for testing, and we run every test twice. So again, I just suggest you have him call us.

  9. Regarding attempts to cheat a DNA test, you mentioned swabbing the wrong person or or switching the swabs…but, what about planting DNA inside the mouth just prior to the swab. For instance, a mother and her toddler take go in to take a DNA a test in order to collect child support. Supposing the mother had already collected a DNA sample, such as saliva or semen from a man that wasn’t the father but was a good source of child support. And prior to the test that DNA sample was injected into the nipple of a pacifier so as to provide a slow and steady supply of DNA into the child’s mouth. Wouldn’t the results of even a the legal paternity test falsely identify that man as the father? After comparing basically comparing one of the man’s DNA sample to another, he is set up for 18 years of child support which is a big responsibility for a parent, and life ruining for a childless fraud victim. So, am I mistaken or is it that easy to plant DNA and falsify the results of a legally admissible paternity? And what advice would you give the man in this scenario to try and stop the fraud and what to do if he is falsely identified a the father?

    • Hi, Joe. The scenario you describe is not possible…DNA doesn’t work that way. If, somehow, the man’s DNA “injected” in the mouth of the child somehow also ends up on the swab with the baby’s cheek cells, the lab would detect two separate DNA profiles and request new samples. Fraud is virtually impossible with legal paternity tests, which is why their results are accepted by courts worldwide as absolute proof of relationship.

    • When anyone does an at-home test with us, Meliah, they agree to the following, per our Terms and Conditions statement: “I represent and warrant that I have obtained all permissions, consents, and authorizations necessary from the person(s) submitting DNA specimens (or the parent/guardian of such person(s) if under 18).”

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