If you’re looking for a cheap paternity test, there is a new high tech option that can save you money AND provide far more information than a traditional paternity test.
A company called Family Tree DNA offers many DNA tests, including one called Family Finder. While this test was developed for genealogists, thousands of adoptees like me have used it to find unknown parents and siblings.
The ability of Family Finder to accurately measure how two people are related is what makes it a great option for paternity testing.
Sampling is done at home with small cheek swabs. So it’s easy to collect DNA samples from adults and children of any age.
A DNA paternity test checks fewer than twenty genetic markers. Due to the unique relationship between a parent and child, that’s enough to answer one simple question: Is this man the father of this child?
Family Finder checks more than a 700,000 markers. Besides confirming a parent-child relationship, it can identify full siblings, half siblings, aunt/uncle and nephew/niece, grandparent and grandchild, first cousin and second cousin.
A negative result on a standard paternity simply eliminates one man. That’s it. You learn nothing else. Family Finder, on the other hand, provides many clues that can narrow down your search.
Even if you can find a standard paternity test for less, many people consider the slight added cost of Family Finder to be cheap insurance in case the tested man proves not to be the father. Here’s how it helps:
1. You will learn if the tested man is related in any way to the child. If he is identified as an uncle, for example, you know the child’s father must be a brother of this man.
2. Since the child’s DNA will be compared with everyone in the Family Finder database, you will almost certainly uncover many genetic relatives. Nearly all of these matches will be identified by name and email address. Many of them will have family trees to examine. The same methods used to find unknown parents of adoptees can lead you to the father’s family.
TIP: If you do get a negative result, you may then want to test the child’s mother on Family Finder. Her results can be used as a filter to focus on the child’s matches that are Not In Common with her. Those people will be related to the child through his or her father.
3. Family Finder will summarize the child’s ethnic ancestry. Geographic findings that don’t fit the mother’s known ancestry can be a clue to the father’s ethnicity.
Since Family Tree DNA processes DNA samples in large batches on automated equipment, the price of a Family Finder test is less than $100 per person. This puts the cost of testing two people in the same ballpark as a home paternity test. Yet this cheap paternity test uncovers so much more information.
The 23andMe test is similar to Family Finder. But it adds health related information and costs twice as much. So it doesn't qualify as a cheap paternity test.
23andMe also uses a different approach to sample collection. Testers must spit a large amount of saliva into a tube. That makes it difficult to collect samples from infants. The swabs used for Family Finder are more suitable.
Another similar test that I do NOT recommend for paternity testing is the AncestryDNA test. While the test will highlight close relationships, it does not report the genetic details necessary to absolutely define a specific relationship.
Like any DNA test where the sampling is done at home, these tests are not admissible in court. They are for personal knowledge only.
If you’re expecting a court battle for custody or child support, you have no choice but to do a Court-Admissible Paternity Test.
To be court-admissible everyone must be sampled at a lab to ensure exactly who was tested. It also requires a formal “chain of custody” procedure to assure the court that the test results are indeed from each person tested.
A court-admissible test will cost hundreds of dollars more than any home paternity test. If the father is uncertain, you may still want to do preliminary testing with Family Finder and then turn to a legal test once you're certain which man is the father.
If you need a court-admissible test, I suggest DNA Findings.