dna tests

Legal and at Home Paternity Testing

dna tests

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DNA is found in every cell of your body except for your red blood cells. This means that DNA can be collected from various human tissues, membranes and fluids.


How many paternity tests get carried out each year in the USA alone? Well back in 2001, the number stood above 300,000. This number is bound to have increased dramatically over the past decade or so. These figures might be somewhat unnerving to some of us, but they do reflect a reality.

So what exactly is a paternity test? How is a paternity test actually carried out? What is the difference between a legal test and an at home test? Let’s begin answering a few of these questions.

A paternity test is a type of DNA which compares the genetic blueprint of the father and the child. A child inherits half their genetic makeup from their father and half from their mother. Paternity testing will thus confirm whether the child’s genetic profile matches that of the man tested. A match between the profiles would of course confirm the fact that the tested man is the biological father of the child. It is impossible for anyone else to have the same genetic profile as the alleged father – this means that a paternity result cannot show a given man as being the biological when in actual fact he is not.

How is the test actually carried out?

DNA is found in every single cell of your body (except for your red blood cells). This means that DNA can be collected from various human tissues, membranes and fluids. The easiest and quickest way to collect a genetic sample is from the inside of the mouth. The cell membrane lining the entire inside of your mouth is an ideal “candidate” from DNA sampling. A simple rub of a sterile, oral swab against the inside of your mouth will make the cells composing this membrane to “unstick” and get attached to the end of the swab. DNA testing companies provide a special kit which contains the swabs you require to collect the DNA samples.

At home testing or a legal test?

Before creating a scene or taking any action that could have serious consequences, it is best to clear all your doubts. This is why the best place to begin is by doing an at home DNA test. This test will just help you discretely confirm or quash what you suspect and is moreover, far cheaper to carry out than a legal test. Once you have the results of the at home test, you can decide, based on these results, whether you want to go ahead with a legal test or not.

The main difference between a legal test and an at home test lies in the sample collection. At home testing involves a self sampling process in which people taking part in the test collect their own samples using oral swabs. DNA testing companies offering the test send out a kit with the paper work to be filled in, the oral swabs needed for all test participants as well as the instructions which explain how to collect oral swab samples. With legal testing, the procedure in place ensures that the test participants do not actually collect any samples themselves. What happens for a legal test is that a third party is employed to collect the DNA samples (this person is referred to as a sampler). The sampler takes on a certain responsibility and needs to declare the provenance of every single sample collected. This procedure ensures that nobody is able to cheat in the test. The sampler can be held legally liable if he or she carries out any shading actions in an attempt to alter the results of the paternity test.

Whilst legal test results can be presented in court, at home paternity testing results are not usually court admissible. The fact that they are not court admissible is due to the fact that nobody has witnessed the sample collection and therefore, there can be no certainty as to whether all DNA samples were in fact collected from the people who should have been involved in the test.

The accuracy of a legal test result and an at home test are equally accurate. Both will show a probability of paternity of 99.99% is the alleged father is the biological father. If the tested male is not the biological father of the child, the result will show a 0% probability of paternity.

Photo: justingrimes