Paternity Blood Tests and DNA
When a child is born to a married couple, a legal presumption arises that the husband is the child’s father. This isn’t the case with unmarried couples. Establishing paternity is important for unmarried couples in the event they break up and one parent seeks custody or child support for inheritance purposes or a variety of other circumstances. If the parents get married after the mother becomes pregnant but before birth, the husband’s paternity is established in the same manner as if the parents were married at the time of conception.
But sometimes paternity is established after birth, especially when the presumptive father has denied paternity. Read on for a detailed look at the chronology of establishing paternity.
Establishing Paternity After Birth
If the parents marry after the child is born, they can sign a legitimation form (or a Declaration of Paternity), which grants the same rights as if the parents were married at the time of birth.
Even if parents never marry, paternity can be established voluntarily when the parents are certain of the father’s identity. In such cases they may sign a legal form called a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, or something similar, and then file the form with the court or appropriate state agency. Executing this voluntary acknowledgment can be done right in the hospital following the child’s birth, or any time thereafter. The father’s name is then included on the child’s birth certificate.
Even if a voluntary acknowledgment isn’t signed, the parties may later enter into an agreement with the help and advice of their attorneys that establishes the father’s identity and resolves custody and support issues.
Filing a Paternity Lawsuit
If neither of these voluntary procedures occurs, legal action may be necessary. A mother may file a paternity action to establish that the man she believes to be her child’s father in fact is, or, if the mother is receiving public assistance, the state may initiate the action in order for the child to begin receiving support from the father. The putative, or probable, father’s presence in court will be demanded, and he may be required to submit to DNA testing if he contests his paternity. Genetic blood test results are usually available within a few weeks, and they can establish (or negate) paternity with about 99 percent accuracy.
If paternity is established in this manner, the court will enter an order regarding the father’s paternity. The father then becomes legally obligated to pay child support according to the state’s guidelines, which are generally based on both parents’ incomes and the needs of the children.
Settling Before the Verdict
At any time in this process prior to entry of the court’s order, the parties may still enter into a settlement agreement that resolves the custody and financial issues relating to the child. In most instances, it will be the father that is legally required to provide financial support to his children. One alternative option that is sometimes pursued, however, is to offer the mother a lump-sum child support payment in exchange for her agreement to not pursue additional child support in the future. While this would give the mother the advantage of having a lump sum with which a major purchase, such as a home, could be accomplished, it has many potential disadvantages as well. It is also exceedingly rare for the courts to rule this way.
Once paternity has been established, the child obtains many legal rights beyond child support. The child can inherit from their father, is eligible for health insurance coverage under the father’s group policy, and is entitled to Social Security benefits if the father dies or becomes disabled. They also may be entitled to wrongful death benefits if the father dies as a result of someone else’s negligence, can obtain medical history information, and may reap the emotional benefits of establishing paternity.
Paternity can be determined by highly accurate tests conducted on blood or tissue samples of the father (or alleged father), mother, and child. These tests have an accuracy range of between 90 and 99 percent. They can exclude a man who is not the biological father, and can also show the likelihood of paternity if he’s not excluded. These tests have a significant legal impact when it comes to establishing child custody and support.
In a contested paternity case, a party must submit to genetic tests at the request of any other party. If the father could be one of several men, each may be required to take a genetic test to determine paternity. There are several different ways to establish whether an alleged father is the natural and legal father of the minor child, such as the use of paternity blood tests and DNA paternity tests.
Paternity Blood Tests
Paternity blood tests were first performed in the middle half of the twentieth century, by comparing blood types of tested parties. This involved isolation of blood sera from antigen-challenged individuals that did not possess certain red blood cell antigens. These antigens are protein molecules that may be combined with sugar molecules, and reside in the red blood cell membrane. These sera cause coagulation of red blood cells in individuals that possess that particular red blood cell antigen.
In the ABO blood typing system, humans can possess the A antigen (A blood type), the B antigen (B blood type), both the A and B antigen (AB blood type), or neither of these antigens (O blood type). Red blood cell antigen systems of this sort can be used for paternity blood testing because there are genes that code for the antigens and these are inherited genes.
A mother who has Type B blood and a father who has Type O blood could not have a child who has type AB blood. The true father of the child must have the gene for the A antigen. Using RBC antigen systems for paternity blood testing did not provide for a very powerful test because the frequencies of the genes that coded for the antigens are not very low.
In the 1970s a more powerful test was developed using white blood cell antigens or Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA), resulting in a test that was able to exclude about 95 percent of falsely accused fathers. Several milliliters of blood are required to perform the test.
Blood types alone cannot be used to determine who the father is, but they can be used to determine the biological possibility of fatherhood.
DNA Paternity Tests
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the genetic material present in every cell of the human body. Except in the case of identical multiple births, each individual’s DNA is unique. A child receives half of his or her genetic material (DNA) from the biological mother, and half from the biological father. During DNA testing, the genetic characteristics of the child are compared to those of the mother. Characteristics that cannot be found in the mother must have been inherited from the father.
DNA paternity testing is the most accurate form of paternity testing possible. If DNA patterns between the child and the alleged father do not match on two or more DNA probes, then the alleged father can be totally ruled out. If the DNA patterns between mother, child, and the alleged father match on every DNA probe, the likelihood of paternity is 99.9 percent.
A DNA test can be performed by testing the blood or a cheek swab. A blood test uses Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) to compare the father’s DNA with the DNA of the child. A cheek swab uses a buccal smear to collect cells inside the cheek to test for DNA.
These tests provide a DNA sample for testing. Children can be tested at any age. Paternity DNA testing can even be done on an umbilical cord blood specimen at birth. Since DNA is the same in every cell of the human body, the accuracy of testing performed on cheek cells utilizing the Buccal Swab is the same as an actual blood sample.
Need Help Establishing Paternity? Get in Touch with an Attorney
From paternity blood tests to DNA paternity tests, the science behind determining a child’s father has advanced quite significantly over time. However, certain legal procedures are required in order to compel someone to submit to a paternity test. If you’re interested in learning more about how to establish paternity, you should consult with a family law attorney in your area.
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.