Paternity testing is a very simple, painless procedure that can establish with 100% certainty if a man is not the father, or with 99.99% probability that he is. If conducted with reasonable care, modern paternity testing is highly reliable, even if you gather the samples yourself.

For many people, the issue of paternity is a purely personal one. The mother may be unsure of who is the father, or her partner may have suspicions of his own. In such cases, although the test is simple and painless, the results are often quite the opposite, and paternity testing for your ‘peace of mind’ may not provide that at all. You should carefully consider the impact the results of paternity testing may have on your relationship, and decide if they may turn out to be harder to live with than your current suspicions.

This article on paternity tests is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

If you decide to go for paternity testing for your own peace of mind, then you will not need to attend a clinic. Test kits can be purchased online and the samples posted to the laboratory. The results will then be posted back to you within a few days, or you can access them online via a password supplied. Although these paternity tests are quick and easy, it should be noted that the results of this kind of test are not legally binding and cannot be used in court to dispute maintenance or access rights.

Costs and value for money

Peace of mind paternity tests cost between £108 and £239 (June 2010) and the average is around £159. When choosing a home paternity test, the cheapest option is not always the most cost effective. Make sure that you buy from a reputable company, one that is well established and that provides detailed information about the paternity test. It is also worth bearing in mind that if you think you may need a test to prove paternity in a UK court of law, a peace of mind paternity test will not be admissible. You will have to pay for a completely new, legally binding paternity test and the first peace of mind test will have been an unnecessary expense.

Legally binding testing

For a test to be legally binding, it must be undertaken by a registered laboratory, with samples either taken at the lab or by a responsible person, such as your GP. In either case, you will need to provide evidence of identity before the test can be undertaken. The laboratory involved should be ISO/IEC:17025 accredited & UKAS ISO:9001 certified and should conform to the Code of Practice set out by the Department of Health.

This kind of paternity testing is not necessarily more accurate than peace of mind tests, however the way in which the samples are collected means the results will be accepted in a UK Court of Law. Legally binding tests will cost a little more – generally £350 - £400.

Issues to consider

As discussed earlier, the fact that you can get a paternity test does not automatically mean that you should. There are many complex emotional issues to consider first.

Following changes in the law in 2006, all parties concerned must now give written consent for paternity testing, and all have a legal right to know the result. This means that you must air your suspicions to your partner in order to have the test done. Even if the result proves your suspicions to be unfounded, merely asking for the test may cause irrevocable damage to your relationship. Bear in mind that brothers and sisters from the same parents may have widely different appearances and personalities, and this is not automatically a cause for suspicion.

There are also the feelings of the child to consider. If the child sees a man as his or her father, finding out that they are not may not be in the child’s best interests – at least not in the early years of development. Before you undertake a paternity testing, you should discuss if, how, and when you are going to tell the child about the results.

Similarly, if a man is happy to think he is the father of a child, there may be little to gain in him finding out that he isn’t. Even the most loving father may struggle with the knowledge that a child is biologically someone else’s.

Clearly, the whole issue of paternity testing is incredibly complex and you should consider counselling, either individually, or as a couple, to make sure you’re as well prepared for the outcome of the test and the impact it will have on your relationship as you can be.

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