Thanks to many advances in modern science, it's now possible to determine, or rule out, matters of paternity through the convenient use of a home paternity test. In-home paternity test kits are now available for purchase for a relatively low fee, usually $30 or less, in which the samples are collected in the privacy of one's home, and then returned to the laboratory for testing. An extra fee will apply for the lab to conduct the actual DNA testing, and results are usually returned within a week's time.
With a home paternity test, DNA samples may be collected using one of two methods; either the buccal (cheek) swab, or a blood test. The former is completely painless and able to be done on people of any age, involving a long cotton swab that's swirled inside the cheek to collect cells for testing. The blood test involves a small lancet used to prick the finger, dropping the blood sample onto a collection card and mailing back to the lab for processing.
Results will be returned in a discreet mailer generally within five business days, although expedited service is usually available for an additional fee.
The Chain of Custody refers to an exact process that must be followed in order for DNA test results to legally be admissible in court. Much like evidence from a crime scene, the results of the paternity test must be handled according to specific procedure which begins with the collection of the samples, and also includes their transmission back to the laboratory as well as the complete testing procedures that are done. If you will need the results of your test for legal purposes, always deal with a laboratory or company that offers legal testing following the Chain of Custody process.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about home paternity testing:
Q: What if the alleged father is deceased or missing, can paternity still be established?
A: Yes, if any viable samples are available, such as blood, hair, tissue, or body fluids, they may be used to determine paternity. If this also isn't a possibility, both of the man's parents may then be tested to establish whether or not their son is the father of the child in question.
Q: Are there any age limits associated with paternity tests?
A: No, paternity tests can be done at any age, at any time, and even be conducted before a child is born using prenatal paternity testing procedures, although these both pose a certain amount of risk to the fetus and mother and should be discussed thoroughly with a doctor. The postnatal buccal swab method is completely safe and is able to be done on newborn infants.
Q: What is DNA banking?
A: Some laboratories associated with home paternity tests offer a service known as DNA banking which allows you to keep your DNA samples in their records in the event it is ever need in the future. DNA banking is optional, not available through every company, and the fees will vary from one lab to the next.
Q: Is it possible to alter or "fake" the results of a home paternity test?
A: The DNA within our cells is there from the moment of conception. When an egg and sperm combine to create what will eventually become the fetus, the genetic markers are already in place and cannot ever be changed or altered.
Q: Does testing have to be completed on each person at the same exact time?
A: No, testing can be done at different times provided each of the samples are handled correctly and then stored properly.