Accuracy of Home Paternity Test Kits

Can Home Paternity Test Kits Be Trusted?

Father carrying son on back
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Home paternity test kits are readily available, but can they be trusted? Let's look at how mail order paternity testing works, when to use it, and what you need to know about accuracy.

When Home Paternity Test Kits Are Used

Home paternity test kits are typically used to establish paternity in situations where the biological connection between the alleged father and the child is unclear or when either parent files for child support or initiates child custody proceedings.

 When a child is born, the birth father can formally establish paternity by signing an acknowledgment of paternity at the hospital. If, however, a man is unsure whether he is the biological father, he has the right to undergo a paternity test. While paternity can be established at a doctor's office or lab, at-home paternity test kits are often selected for their convenience and privacy.

How to Use an At-Home Paternity Test Kit

At-home paternity testing involves collecting DNA samples in the privacy of your home, versus the traditional paternity test that requires going to a doctor's office or test lab. Remember that both parents should be involved in the process. It is not advisable to perform at-home paternity testing in secret or without discussing it first. Once you've both agreed to the process and purchased a kit, you'll need to: 

  • Use the cotton swab provided to swab the inside of your baby's cheek for some saliva 
  • Repeat this step using a different cotton swab in the alleged father's mouth 
  • Follow directions for packaging the DNA samples for mailing (be careful not to cross-contaminate the two cotton swabs)
  • Either parent should then mail the test kit to the lab, as per the directions
  • The results should be sent back to the parents within a week

    Benefits of At-Home Paternity Testing

    There are several benefits to at-home testing, including:

    • Cost-effective
    • Private
    • Potentially faster results

    Drawbacks of At Home Paternity Testing

    Although there are several benefits to taking a paternity test at home, there are some drawbacks, which include:

    • False results
    • Individuals misunderstanding or misreading the results
    • Misuse of the test

    The Cost of Home Paternity Testing

    Home paternity testing kits generally cost less than one hundred dollars and may be purchased at any major drugstore.

    Accuracy of Home Paternity Tests

    At home paternity tests may be as accurate as a test performed at a doctor's office. However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

    • If the test will be used for a court hearing, you should check with your state before taking it, as the state may have specific rules surrounding paternity testing
    • The directions should be followed completely in order to avoid false results
    • Be sure to have the consent of the child's mother prior to performing an at-home paternity test

    Manner in Which Home Results Are Reported

    Home paternity testing results can be reported in a number of different ways. Home paternity tests can be reported:

    • Via a secure email
    • Via mail
    • Over the phone

    There are times when the paternity of a child is called into question. The question may arise while the mother is pregnant with the child or after the parent has given birth. At-home paternity test kits have several benefits, but there are some potential risks (as noted above). Additionally, at-home paternity testing can only be performed after the mother gives birth to the child. For more information about paternity testing, consider speaking with a qualified medical practitioner or a qualified attorney.

    Edited by Jennifer Wolf.