What is genetic paternity testing?
Genetic testing examines a person's genetic markers (“DNA”) to determine the father of a child. Almost all humans have a unique set of genes, just as we each have a unique set of fingerprints (the exception is identical twins, triplets, etc.). The material that makes up these genes is called DNA. Most cells in our bodies contain the same DNA pattern.
A child receives half of his/her DNA from the mother and the other half from the father. Therefore, a child's paternity can be determined by comparing genes from the child, biological mother and biological father. If none of the child's DNA matches those from the man being tested, then the man cannot be the child's biological father.
How is testing done?
The usual process involves taking cell samples from the mother, child and the man being tested. Samples do not have to be taken at the same time. If either the mother or the alleged father is deceased, samples may be taken from either the mother or alleged father's parents or other family members, or even from the body of the deceased person. Paternity may also be determined by samples taken just from the child and man being tested.
Every participant in testing is required to present identification (i.e. driver's license, birth certificate) before samples are taken. In addition, each participant is fingerprinted and photographed at the time the DNA samples are collected.
Taking samples is simple. DNA is painlessly extracted by brushing a cotton swab against the inside of a person's cheek (called a “buccal swab”). DNA from tissue cells cannot be changed, so drugs, alcohol or diet will not affect the test results. However, since cheek cells are used, the technician may ask you to rinse out your mouth first to avoid contamination by food if you have recently eaten.
Samples are sent to a certified laboratory for testing, and results are usually available within 2-6 weeks.