The Who’s, Why’s and How’s of Paternity Testing

Q. How is paternity established?

While establishing the identity of a child’s biological mother is virtually always easy, establishing paternity –or fatherhood – – is not always simple. “Who’s your daddy?” is an emotionally-charged question especially if asked in the context of a prospective divorce.

Paternity lawsuits may be brought when the identity of a child’s biological father is in question. Establishing a child’s paternity impacts parental rights, child custody and support matters whether the child’s biological parents are or ever were married.

Paternity lawsuits can be brought by the following:

  • the mother
  • the presumed father/mother’s husband
  • another man alleged to be the father
  • the court or government agency
  • the child in question (or their representative if a minor). 

Paternity is established through a genetic/DNA test. Testing can be done either pre-natally, which is during the mother’s pregnancy, or post-natally which is after the child is born.

Two methods of pre-natal paternity testing are invasive. In the first trimester of pregnancy, a needle inserted through the cervix can obtain chorionic villus sampling (“CVS”) for testing. Alternatively, amniocentesis can be performed in the second or third trimester to obtain amniotic fluid for testing via a needle through the mother’s abdomen. Invasive paternity testing contains a risk of miscarriage. In either option, the sample of fetal cells taken from the mother is compared to either a blood or buccal (inner cheek cell swab) specimen from the suspected father.

In addition to those invasive pre-natal testing options, a newer and noninvasive method of pre-natal paternity testing– which poses no threat of miscarriage—is available. Done any time after 7 weeks gestation, it compares fetal cells in a blood sample of the mother with either a blood or buccal specimen from the suspected father.   

Sometimes, paternity testing must happen after the baby is born. Post-natal paternity testing compares a blood or a buccal sample from the suspected father with either a cord blood sample of the infant prior to discharge from the hospital or if done after discharge, then by a blood or buccal  sample from the child.

Among other scenarios, paternity testing is often used by a mother to establish a legal relationship between her child and his/her biological father so she can obtain child support. It may also be used by a mother’s husband who suspects infidelity or by a man who had sexual relations with the mother and seeks to confirm his paternity so he can through a father’s rights attorney become involved in his child’s life.

If you need to file a paternity suit or need to be defended against a paternity action, Cohen Family Law can help you. Contact us at 602-714-8898 for a free consultation. From our office in Phoenix, we’ve been helping families throughout Arizona in all aspects of family law since 1982