It is important to establish paternity to protect the rights of your child. Naming a legal father ensures that the child can receive child support as well as other benefits normally granted to heirs such as social security and veterans benefits.
To determine the biological father, a procedure known as a paternity test can be performed. This test essentially matches the DNA of the assumed father to that of the child. Since the child’s DNA is a combination of the mother and the father, the testing laboratory can exclude the mother’s DNA and what’s left will identify the biological father.
A paternity test can be done before or after the child is born and will involve one of several different procedure options:
There are two options for determining paternity before the child is born, however both present some risk of miscarriage and require a doctor’s consent before they can be performed:
Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) – A small sample of chorionic villi is collected through a thin needle inserted into the uterus through the vagina. Chorionic villi is tissue from the uterus wall and has a genetic makeup identical to that of the fetus. This procedure can be performed as early as 13 weeks into pregnancy.
Amniocentesis – In this test, a small sample of amniotic fluid is collected through a small needle inserted through the abdomen and into the uterus. This test can be done during the second trimester (14 to 20 weeks into pregnancy) but also presents the risk of harm to the fetus as well as vaginal bleeding, miscarriage and loss of amniotic fluid.
Once the child has been born, there are several ways to obtain a genetic sample that present no risk to the child:
Buccal Swab – The most common procedure in DNA testing, a Buccal Swab collects saliva from the inside of the cheek on a cotton swab. This is the method used in “drug store” paternity test kits.
Umbilical Cord – Genetic material can be obtained by taking a sample of the umbilical cord after it has been cut from the baby.
Tissue Samples – DNA can also be obtained from a skin or blood sample as well as hair follicles. For the potential father, DNA can be collected from tissue samples such as skin, blood and hair as well as from semen and saliva through the Buccal Swab mentioned above.
Blood Type Comparison – In addition to DNA comparison, paternity can be excluded by comparing blood types. See Paternity Testing Through Blood Samples for more information.