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Establishing Paternity with DNA Testing

Paternity testing is the sole means we have of establishing whether an alleged dad is the biological father of a child with undeniable certainty. It is not uncommon these days for paternity tests to be carried out; they are readily available online or via clinics and hospitals. Even courts of law may sometimes issue court orders for a DNA test to be carried out in cases where there are doubts revolving around the issue of paternity.

Paternity has indeed helped many; fathers have been sometimes divided from their biological children because they were never given the chance acknowledge parentage/paternity; in some cases, mothers either deliberately or unintentionally, name the wrong man as the biological father of the child. Once a declaration of paternity or if a given man has been named on the birth certificate of the child, the issue would be hard to reverse of disprove and the courts would need to invariable be involved.

Why is it so important to establish the true paternity of a child?

There are material reasons for knowing exactly who fathered a child – only that man and no other should be obliged to provide child support to raise and educate the child he has fathered. There are hundreds of thousands of men globally who are maintaining children that they did not actually father. Further to this, there is an emotional bond – we cannot deny the huge importance and impact this has on the life of any child. The bond and relationship between father and child can in fact truly be strengthened by such a test, it helps the child develop a sense of identity and saves the devastating effects that can take place if a child discovers they have been calling the wrong father daddy later on in life.

Legal DNA testing or home DNA test?

Home paternity tests are the kind of tests you buy online. Many well established companies like easyDNA, homeDNAdirect South Africa, and others offer their services online. These tests are ideal if there are any questions marks and you need to find answers. A home test is a discreet way of finding out the truth, helping you decide on the choices to make. For such a test, companies send out what they call “home sample collection kit”. These kits are pretty basic and allow the people interested in the test to collect the samples. Whilst the thought of collection your own DNA samples might worry some (sometimes people fear not to be able to collect the samples correctly), the sample collection is so simple and straight forward that the chances of going wrong are almost nil.

Sample collection for both legal and home testing is done using these medical oral swabs which would remind one very much of cotton buds.  By rubbing the swabs inside the inside of the mouth, the DNA required for analysis in a laboratory is collected.

Legal testing would follow very much the same method of sample collection but samples would be collected by a third party professional. A special procedure known as a chain of custody must be followed.


Cases of immigration may also warrant a DNA test. Why? The reason is simple: people may not always be able to provide satisfactory evidence to the authorities of their relationship to somebody else and there may be no other way of proving it than with the results of a DNA test. Many companies offer in fact what is known as immigration DNA testing.

Paternity Fraud & DNA testing

Paternity fraud involves the deliberate / intentional attempt on behalf a mother to get child support from a father whom she knows has not fathered the child for which she is claiming alimony. The mother knowingly names a given man as the biological father of the child knowing that he in fact is not or may not be the biological father of the child.

The number of fathers that are unwittingly maintaining a child that is not theirs vary depending on the country and sound, reliable statistics are hard to come by. In some countries, studies have showed the figure to be as high as 15%.  The marital presumption of paternity which applies in certain countries is sometimes counterproductive in that it endorses paternity fraud.

Significantly, for paternity fraud to exist, it must be proven that the mother was conscious of the fact that the father was not the child/children’s biological father. If there was fraud, the man who issued child support payments may have the right to claim all the money back from the mother. But this is far from a rule and courts will exert their own discretion and treat every case on an individual basis. The judge overseeing the case could in fact actually order child support payments to continue despite the father having proved he is not the biological father. If child support payments are somehow deemed indispensable for the well-being of the child or the father has provided payment for a given period of time, the court may issue an order for child support payments to continue being made.

The consequences of paternity fraud are not solely material losses but also emotional. Fathers may suddenly feel alienated from a child they thought was their own. Children too may suffer the trauma of either finding out the person they called daddy is not really their daddy or of a man they thought their father just disappearing from their lives. The biological father of the child may also be missing out on providing emotional support and moreover, fulfilling his paternal duties as decreed by the laws in the country. 

In some countries, a father has a limited time frame within which to contest paternity. For example, if there is a 2 year time frame, the father has 2 years to legally disprove paternity from the moment he finds out that the child in question is not his biological child.

Paternity Testing

Paternity testing can be used to disprove paternity and even have the name on a birth certificate changed.

The instance a father senses paternity fraud he could begin by taking a peace of mind / home paternity DNA test. There are many South Africa based companies like easyDNA that operate online offering such tests. However, a home test will not suffice for court cases. For example, for child support to be stopped the judge may issue a court ordered test; if the probability of paternity shows the father in question (who has been paying maintenance for X amount of time) is not the biological father of the child, then payments could be stopped and legal action taken against the mother. Depending on whether discontinuing payments or disengaging the father from all parental responsibility is in the best interests of the child or not, the court will decide how best to proceed.

Carrying out a paternity test, even just a simple at home test, could be risky for the alleged father in some countries. In Italy, the mother must authorize the paternity test and sign the required documents giving her consent for the DNA test to be carried out.

In other countries, such as the UK, the Human Tissue Act makes it illegal to test a DNA sample belonging to a person without their consent; the person from whom the sample was taken must give their consent by signing the required forms. Any DNA samples taken from children under the legal age of consent can only be tested with the consent of their legal parent or guardian. There is no such law in countries such as Italy, South Africa, Canada and Australia.



Karl M McDonald is a free lance writer specializing in the field of DNA testing and genetics. More articles by the author can be found on various sites online.