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How Do Paternity Tests Work?

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 21, 2022

As technology has advanced, so has the accuracy of paternity tests. Modern-day paternity tests can determine a child’s biological father with a probability rate of 99.99 percent, which is why families, physicians, and Florida courts turn to such tests to establish paternity.

But how exactly do paternity tests work? To answer that question, we must first take a look at DNA.

Each human being—with the exception of identical twins—has a distinctive set of DNA. Half of an individual’s DNA comes from their mother, while the other half comes from their father. For this reason, a child’s DNA is more than 99.9 percent identical to their parents, and similar to other relatives such as grandparents, siblings, and cousins.
An individual’s DNA is located throughout the body and appears identical whether it comes from the hair, skin, cheek lining, or skin. DNA is established when someone is born, and remains the same throughout life.

If the child’s DNA contains fragments that can’t be matched to the alleged father, it can reasonably be presumed that he is not the natural father. If the alleged father does have the DNA characteristics necessary to be the biological father, the probability that he is the true natural father is calculated and reported. Tests results may reach a 99.99 percent probability of accuracy, and all results above 97 percent are considered acceptable proof of paternity in Florida courts.

The Importance of Establishing Paternity

In simplest terms, paternity means fatherhood. When you establish paternity, you determine the legal father of a child. There are many different legal and personal reasons to establish paternity for a child, including:

Identity. By identifying the natural father, parents can provide their children with a sense of identity and belonging.

Medical reasons. When a child’s natural father is identified, the family will have access to information about the medical history of the child’s father and his family, which can play an invaluable role in recognizing and understanding any inherited medical conditions. In addition, a child may be able to obtain health insurance coverage through their father’s employer.

Financial support. Both parents have a responsibility to support their child, and a father may be required to pay child support if paternity is established. Such a child support order can greatly benefit a single mother and child after divorce.

Shared parenting. If a mother denies paternity, a father may petition Florida court to establish paternity in order to be able to obtain parenting time and a voice in important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

Benefits. After establishing paternity, a child may benefit from the father’s social security, inheritance, and veterans benefits, as well as the aforementioned health insurance.

Emotional health. Children need support from both parents—both financial and emotional. By establishing paternity, parents can help their child establish a healthy bond with both a father and a mother.

How to Establish Paternity

While establishing paternity is very important for a family’s emotional and financial well-being, it’s not always an easy task. In an ideal world, there would be no disagreement or dispute over paternity, and parents would be able to agree on paternity issues out of court. But when there is confusion or difference concerning paternity, the rights and obligations of fatherhood must be established through other means. A parent might request a paternity test, but the other parent may not voluntarily comply with such a request.

In such instances, a court may hold a hearing to establish paternity, and could order genetic paternity testing to determine the true biological father of the child. In Florida, any of the following individuals or agencies may begin the court process:

  • The child’s mother

  • The alleged father

  • A legal representative acting on behalf of the child

  • The Florida Department of Child Support Services

However, only the mother or father can seek orders regarding issues of visitation rights. If a government agency establishes paternity, only child support orders may be obtained.

Establishing paternity can be a complicated, oftentimes daunting task, accompanied by serious financial and emotional ramifications. Whether you are a mother who needs help establishing paternity for your child or a father seeking to claim parental rights, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced Florida family attorney. An attorney can guide you through the process of petitioning for paternity, investigating your situation and explaining your options. Additionally, they will be able to help you navigate complex, sensitive matters such as visitation rights and child support with compassion, sensitivity, and expertise.