Can Paternity Tests Be Wrong?

Hossein Berenji, Oct 27, 2021

Under California law, if a couple is married when a child is born, it is generally assumed that the male is the legal father of the child. However, the issue of parentage can become more complicated when two parents are not married at the time of a child’s birth. It is often necessary for a paternity test to be conducted in order to determine whether someone has the rights and responsibilities of a father.

Paternity Tests: What You Need to Know

A child typically gets 50 percent of their DNA from their biological mother and another 50 percent from their biological father. Thus, paternity tests rely on DNA analysis to determine the identity of a child’s father.

At-home paternity tests can be taken when parents simply want the peace of mind that comes from knowing whether a certain individual is the father of a child. However, in legal cases, courts will require paternity tests to be conducted through approved hospitals or clinics.

The ways in which DNA may be collected for a paternity test can vary. Potential sources of DNA for a paternity test include the following:

  • Saliva
  • Cheek swabs
  • Hair
  • Semen
  • Blood

For a paternity test to serve its intended purpose, DNA samples from both the potential father and the child must be collected. This is necessary so that the samples may be compared. In instances when a potential father’s DNA sample is unavailable, clinics may instead use samples from a grandparent. It’s also worth noting that DNA from a child can be collected even when they are still in the womb.

The Difference Between Inclusion & Exclusion Paternity Tests

There are two general types of paternity tests. An inclusion test determines the odds of a man being the father of a child by evaluating how many loci match between a child’s and a man’s DNA samples. The greater the match, the greater the likelihood a man is the father of the child.

An exclusion test is based on the understanding that 50 percent of a child’s chromosomes must come from the father. This test is used to rule out individuals who are determined to not be the father of a baby. It is usually regarded as the more accurate type of paternity test.

When Paternity Tests Are Wrong

Most of the time, paternity tests are accurate. That said, there are exceptions. When a paternity test is inaccurate, human error is usually the reason. Lab workers can sometimes make a range of mistakes that may result in inaccurate test results. Although difficult, it may also be possible for someone to access test samples and tamper with them. There are also instances when a relative may test as a potential father. For example, a biological father’s brother could inaccurately test as a father.

What to Do if You Think a Paternity Test is Inaccurate

Do you have reason to believe the results of a paternity test indicating you are the father of a child are wrong? If so, there are various ways you may be able to contest the results of a test. For example, you could present evidence indicating you were sterile or otherwise unable to conceive a child at the time of a child’s conception.

That’s just one example. Just be aware that providing the necessary evidence to show you are not the father of a child despite a paternity test can be challenging. To maximize your chances of presenting a strong case, it is wise to enlist the help of a qualified paternity attorney. A lawyer will review your case and determine the best way to proceed. Act fast, as you must take action within a certain timeframe.