DNA Paternity Testing: Methods, Purpose and Accuracy

DNA Paternity Testing — Methods, Purpose, and Accuracy

A DNA paternity test is used to determine whether a man or a woman is the biological father or mother of a child. A best DNA test kit looks at the genetic code passed down from parent to child. The test compares specific parts of the DNA between a child and a possible father or mother. Children inherit half their DNA from their mother and half from their father. If the DNA patterns between the child and a possible father/mother match up very closely, it means he is very likely to be the biological father or mother.

What are DNA and STRs?

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the genetic material that makes up the chromosomes in nearly every cell in our bodies. DNA is passed down from parents to their children. Each person’s DNA is unique, so children will have DNA that is a combination of their mother’s and their father’s DNA.

A DNA paternity test looks at DNA markers called “short tandem repeats” (STRs). STRs are repeating sequences of DNA that have a high degree of variation between people. The number of repeats at an STR location can differ a lot between people. By looking at several different STR locations, we can generate a genetic profile that is very likely to be unique for each person.

DNA Paternity Test

Key Points About DNA Paternity Tests

Accuracy of DNA Paternity Tests

These tests can show almost exact results – if the man or woman is actually the father or mother, the test will confirm it with 99.99% certainty. This accuracy comes from testing multiple regions of DNA that parents reliably pass on to kids. Even distant relatives share some DNA, but a biological parent and child will match up very closely across all the areas tested.

Timing of DNA Paternity Tests

It is possible to perform a DNA paternity test before the child is born or after its birth. Prior to birth, DNA samples can be taken from the mother and alleged father. After birth, samples from the child are also collected via a non-invasive cheek swab. There is no risk to the fetus or child from collecting DNA. So DNA paternity tests can provide results even during pregnancy if required.

Purpose for Performing DNA Paternity Tests

  • Legal procedures: to establish legal paternity, child support obligations, custody arrangements, inheritance rights, etc. The courts widely accept DNA test results as evidence of biological relationships.
  • Personal desires: for a person’s own knowledge of their genetic relationships or family medical history.
  • Genealogical reasons: to trace family histories and connections.
  • Medical diagnostics: to screen for genetic diseases or risk factors that could be passed on to the child.

How Is a DNA Paternity Test Performed?

There are two main ways to collect DNA samples for testing: at-home paternity test kits and tests performed at a DNA testing laboratory.

At-Home Paternity Tests

At-home paternity tests provide test kits that are mailed to the home. The child and potential mother/father provide DNA paternity test home kit samples by swabbing the inside of their cheeks. Samples are returned to the company so that they can be examined.

These tests are convenient, discreet, and reasonably priced. They might not, however, match the legal requirements for paternity establish during court processes. The price range is between $100 and $500, depending on other services.

Laboratory DNA Tests

DNA paternity testing can also be done at a genetic testing lab using samples taken on-site. This necessitates visiting a testing facility to provide genetic blood test samples.

Laboratory testing examines additional genetic markers and produces legal-grade results. These legally admissible tests normally cost between $300 and $500, depending on the lab and the timing of the results.

DNA samples can be acquired using buccal swabs, blood tests, or other permitted methods, depending on the lab. Accelerated services have turnaround periods ranging from one to five business days.

Things to Consider

It’s important to choose an accredited, approved DNA testing lab when legal paternity establishment is required. The results may impact child support and other legal rights.

In addition to paternity test cost, consider lab accreditations, court approvals, and chain of custody procedures for legal proceedings. Ask for transparency around testing methods and quality assurance.

Speak to an attorney when legal paternity establishment is needed to understand state laws and ensure the best DNA testing process for your situation.

How Quickly Will You Get DNA Results?

You can receive paternity test results much faster with an at-home DNA test compared to a lab-based test.

Results are typically available:

  • Within 1-2 business days for rapid testing
  • Within 3-5 business days for standard testing

Lab-based tests require scheduling an appointment and visiting an approved collection center. This adds time for scheduling and travel. Results usually take:

  • 5-7 business days for rapid testing
  • 7-10 business days for standard testing

Knowing who the biological father/mother is impacts legal proceedings around child support, calculating child support based on income custody disputes, adoption cases, and immigration. With an at-home paternity test, you can quickly and affordably establish genetic relationships, so you can take steps to provide care and support for your child.


In summary, DNA paternity testing compares genetic markers between a child and a potential father or mother to determine biological relationships. Modern tests analyze DNA sequences called STRs that vary significantly between individuals. By testing multiple STRs, DNA diagnostics can establish parenthood with up to 99.99% accuracy. These affordable, convenient cheek swab tests can provide legally admissible results in days. DNA paternity testing empowers families to definitively establish paternity so they can move forward with legal proceedings, medical records, and providing emotional and financial support for the child. When parentage is in question, DNA testing delivers swift, accurate answers.