Home DNA testing to establish your child's paternity can yield results that are more than 99 percent conclusive. However, be aware that results of a home paternity test kit may not be used if you wish to establish paternity for purposes of child support or child custody.
DNA home testing is called "curiosity" testing because it answers any questions the mother of a child and putative (assumed) father have about a child's parentage. Home testing kits can be purchased online or at drugstores such as CVA, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Wal-Mart. The testing kit and the laboratory services are often separate charges. For example, the Identigene DNA testing kit costs $30, but sending your results to a lab for results costs an additional $119. If you want to include a sample from the child's mother, most kits charge an additional fee. However, some paternity testing kits are "all inclusive." When you purchase your test online or in a store, make sure you know if you'll be subject to additional charges aside from the cost of the kit.
Home DNA test kits can provide definitive results when used properly. Most DNA testing kits recommend that a cheek swab be taken of the mother, the child and the putative father for the most accurate results (although paternity can be established to a great degree of accuracy using samples from only the child and putative father). The samples you collect are packaged according to the kit's instructions then mailed to the laboratory where DNA testing is performed. When you purchase your kit, make sure that the laboratory to which you send your samples is certified by the American Association of Blood Banks.
Most testing services advertise results within three days of receipt of your samples. The results are usually either mailed or emailed to the person who registered the kit. Many home testing companies will not give out results over the phone.
Testing for Legal Reasons
If you plan on using DNA home testing results to establish legal paternity for purposes of child support or custody, think twice: courts require all evidence to go through rigorous chain-of-custody procedures that ensures that a third party collects and handles samples at each step of the way. Consumers who purchase a "legal" home paternity kit may find they must take their kit to a laboratory, present personal identification and have laboratory technicians take the samples. This ultimately results in paying a much higher charge--around the same cost had a court ordered the test as a result of a contested paternity suit.
Even then, results may not be admissible. According to attorney Susan Crockin of the Genetics and Public Policy Center of Johns Hopkins University, consumers shouldn't rely on the results of home test kit when in a a court of law. Home testing results can give putative fathers the information they need to voluntarily sign an acknowledgment of paternity form that is later entered by the court. But should the putative father contest paternity, only a court order can specify the method and place of testing.
The Right Time to Test
The appropriate time to use a DNA home test kit is before the putative father has signed an acknowledgment of paternity form and before the court has entered a paternity order. Once legal paternity is established by any other method aside from DNA testing--either voluntarily or through other factors the court considers--a man is beholden to support a child, even though paternity testing may later reveal that the child is not his.
Paternity results that conclusively prove that a man is not a child's biological father after all is said and done can lead to heartbreak--as well as resentment. Often, after a putative father has willingly acknowledged that he is a child's father, it is extremely difficult to reverse a paternity order.
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