DNA testing has injected science into disputes involving child custody laws. These laws vary by state. But they usually define parentage by biology, the historical role of the parent, or a combination of the two.
If the paternal relationship is in question, DNA testing can be the difference between granting and denying custody and visitation rights.
In regions where biological proof takes precedence, DNA is often the factor that protects child custody rights and keeps families together.
DNA Never Lies
Sometimes the mother cannot really be certain of the father. Or she might be inclined to identify the wrong man for one reason or another.
When either party wants to know the truth, their child custody strategies should include a DNA paternity test.
That’s because DNA never lies. If you test the mother, the baby, and the presumed father, DNA will uncover the truth. You will know with 100% certainty if the tested man is that child’s father or not.
You can even do a successful paternity test on the child and the presumed father without the mother’s DNA. This is called a motherless paternity test.
Since identical twins have the same DNA, a paternity test cannot distinguish among them. But that is the only limitation.
Don’t Assume Anything
Some people affected by custody laws may think a paternity test isn’t necessary. But in Michigan alone more than a quarter of the paternity tests involving unwed mothers are negative. In other words, the man named was not really the father in one out of four cases.
So even if a man has been living with the mother, no one should automatically assume he is the father.
Even with couples who are married, historical data for the US and Europe suggest that in about one in 25 births, the husband is not the child’s biological father.
More Courts Accepting DNA
Individual states set child custody laws and local courts interpret those laws. Many courts now accept DNA evidence as proof of paternity. So DNA testing has become an integral legal component in child custody claims.
Claims of Non-Paternity
Sometimes, when a relationship ends, a mother will claim that a former cohabitant is not the child’s father. Often the man considered the child to be his own and has fulfilled the role of father. But his custody rights are now in jeopardy.
Charged with enforcing child custody laws, the court may presume the mother’s claim is correct. That puts the burden of proof on the man who thought he was the child’s father. In such cases he can submit a DNA paternity test as proof of paternity.
Correcting False Paternity
The opposite situation can occur when a man is claiming custody based on an ongoing relationship with the child’s mother. Yet the mother knows the relationship was not exclusive and does not think the man would be an appropriate father to her child. She can insist on a DNA paternity test. If the man is excluded by the test, she can block his attempt to obtain legal child custody or even temporary child custody.
Get a Legal Paternity Test
In any situation involving child custody laws, you need DNA test results that will hold up in court. This means you cannot use any form of home DNA test. You need to pay more and get a legal paternity test.
In a legal test all participants get tested in person at a lab. That way the court can be certain who provided the DNA samples for testing.
If all parties are not in the same area, you can use a lab affiliated with testing centers in many locations. Everyone does not have to go to the same place or be there at the same time. The lab’s chain of custody procedures will ensure that they compare DNA from the correct people.
One good lab that I'm aware of is DNA Findings. Other labs can be OK as long as they are fully accredited.