Today’s advancements in medical technology are vast. With just a small swab of skin cells from a person’s cheek, we can gather that person’s deoxyribonucleic acid (or, DNA) and compare it to another person’s DNA to determine if the two people are biologically related.
When it comes to paternity cases, we use paternity tests to determine if a possible father is actually the biological father of the child in question.
The Importance of Establishing Paternity
Aside from giving both parents peace of mind and allowing the child to know who his or her biological father is, there are several important reasons to establish paternity including, but not limited to:
- Setting up social and legal benefits, including inheritance, veteran’s benefits, and Social Security benefits. Such benefits include anything a child is legally entitled to.
- Establishing an accurate medical history for the child based on the biological father’s medical past and current medical situation. Knowing the father’s identity and medical history can help the mother and child know risks for diseases and illnesses that run in the family, such as high blood pressure, strokes, and various types of cancer.
- Obtaining court-ordered child support, when necessary. A father might be unwilling to pay child support if he is unsure of whether he is the biological father of the child.
- Signing the birth certificate. In some states, the parents must establish paternity before the father (or possible father) can sign his name to the birth certificate.
- Handling Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) forms. Some states have laws that require AOP forms to be filed with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, and there is a certain amount of time allotted to changing these forms, when necessary. Having a paternity test done ensures the correct father is listed on the AOP and will be held responsible for the child.
- Protecting the father’s rights to participate in his child’s life.
A skilled family law attorney with experience in paternity court cases can help you fully understand each reason behind the want or need for a paternity test.
Types of Paternity Tests
There are several types of paternity tests available, and the right one for you largely depends on whether or not your baby has been born.
For babies who have been born, paternity test specialists use postnatal testing, meaning they can either swab the baby’s cheek or take a blood sample in order to find a DNA match between the baby and the possible father.
For babies who haven’t been born yet, specialists might use one of the following prenatal paternity tests:
- Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity (NIPP)
Generally, the non-invasive prenatal paternity (NIPP) test is an extremely accurate form of paternity testing (99.99%), and because it’s non-invasive, the mother doesn’t have to undergo any procedures to enter any of her reproductive body parts. The paternity test specialist simply takes a sample of blood from both the mother and the possible father and analyzes it using the baby’s DNA found in the mother’s blood. NIPP can be done any time after the mother is eight weeks pregnant.
- Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) involves assistance from an ultrasound to guide a thin tube or needle into the mother’s uterus to collect chorionic villi, which are tissue pieces attached to the uterus wall. Chorionic villi are made from the same fertilized egg as the fetus and thus contain the same genetic makeup as the fetus. CVS can be done as early as 10 to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Like CVS above, amniocentesis is an invasive type of paternity testing that uses a thin tube or needle inserted into the uterus, only this time through the abdomen. During amniocentesis, the doctor withdraws amniotic fluid in order to check for genetic compatibility between the baby and possible father. Risks associated with amniocentesis include miscarriage or harm to the baby; leaking amniotic fluid; and cramping and bleeding.
Generally, a doctor’s consent is required for both CVS and amniocentesis; tests involving simple cheek swabs or blood samples typically don’t require doctor’s consent.
Obtaining a Court-Ordered Paternity Test
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s necessary to obtain a court-ordered paternity test. Reasons vary (sometimes the mother needs child support from the possible father; sometimes the possible father is unsure about the mother’s intentions), but fortunately family law and paternity courts can order paternity tests.
If you need a paternity test but the other party isn’t willing to undergo one voluntarily, you can obtain a paternity test petition from your local county courthouse. Generally, you’ll obtain the petition from the county in which the mother resides.
It’s wise to obtain the services of a paternity court attorney, as he or she can walk you through the paternity court case, which involves steps such as:
- Obtaining the paternity court petition and all other related court forms for you. Your attorney will make sure you obtain each required document, which helps speed the process.
- Helping you complete the paternity petition and other required court documents. Court documents can be tricky, but an experienced attorney can help navigate you through the application process.
- Submitting the paternity petition on your behalf.
- Representing your best interests in the courtroom.
- Helping you deal with the results of your paternity case. Whether you’re the mother or father of the child, an attorney can help you take the next steps once you’ve discovered the paternity of the child.
Also, if you’re a mother seeking child support and the possible father turns out to be the biological father, a paternity court attorney can help you take the steps to obtain that child support.
Need Help With a Paternity Testing Suit?
As mentioned above, both parties aren’t always on the same page when it comes to paternity testing. Maybe the mother isn’t willing to let her baby undergo paternity testing; maybe the possible father isn’t willing to determine whether or not he’s actually the biological father.
During such circumstances, it’s often necessary to seek assistance from a paternity court with the objective of obtaining a paternity test. Depending on the case, a judge might issue a court-ordered paternity test.
If you need a paternity test but the other parent or possible parent isn’t willing to undergo one, contact the law offices of Hardesty, Tyde, Green & Ashton. Serving the Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach areas, we specialize in family law cases involving paternity. Call us today at (904)-398-2212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation regarding your specific case.