A paternity test is done to determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. Modern DNA-based paternity tests are extremely accurate, with a 99.9% probability when testing the alleged father and child. However, they can still yield unexpected results that raise questions. This article explores what those test results mean and things to consider if your results are positive or negative when you expected the opposite.
Accuracy of Paternity Tests
How accurate are paternity tests? Today’s paternity tests analyze select sequences of DNA inherited from the father. They require cells from the alleged father and child to compare genetic markers. Tests done at accredited labs under chain of custody with documentation for sample collection have stringent quality control. This gives reliable, court-admissible test results.
Factors like sample mix-ups or mutations during cell sample collection or processing can affect paternity test accuracy. But accredited labs take meticulous precautions to prevent errors. If your test yielded unexpected results, asking questions about the lab’s process can provide useful clarity.
Understanding a Positive Result
A positive paternity test result indicates a high statistical probability that the tested man is the child’s biological father. But consider:
• Mutations – Though very rare, a mutation could cause an unusual false positive. Review testing details.
• Test errors – Request information on quality control for your test to check for issues like sample mix-ups.
• Dishonesty – In very rare cases, deception could affect the test, like if biological maternal and paternal samples were swapped. Key parties in certified tests provide identification under chain of custody to prevent this.
If you receive a positive result but have doubts due to these factors, consult your testing provider about options like retesting.
Implications of a Negative Result
A negative paternity test result indicates the alleged father does not share enough genetic markers with the child to be the biological father. Some key implications if your test shows non-paternity:
• Seek retesting – False negatives are rare with today’s DNA tests. But confirming your unexpected result with a second accredited lab can provide confidence.
• Review records – If retesting also gives a negative, check records for your test’s chain of custody and sample collection details. This can surface any unlikely issues.
• Explore next steps – A confirmed negative means considering legal disclaimers of responsibilities through your case manager or attorney. You’ll also need to grapple with big-picture life changes.
Understanding Who to Test
If uncertainty remains after multiple DNA-based tests, exploring other potential fathers can provide clarity. Paternity testing can be done:
• Without the mother (or child) – A paternity test can be carried out without the mother using past maternal samples or deceased alleged father samples.
• With the mother – Labs perform siblingship tests comparing alleged father/child DNA to mother/child DNA.
In rare cases where DNA evidence is insufficient, labs can incorporate other inheritance markers. Speak to your case manager about these alternatives if needed.
Reliable paternity tests give clear biological answers to inform legal, financial and emotional decisions. But unexpected positive or negative results do occur. In those situations, seek clarity by retesting, confirming process integrity, or considering relatives and alternatives. With an open and diligent approach, you can obtain certainty about your case.