It may be a deeply uncomfortable question to ask, but the best time to have a paternity test is before the child is even born.
The specter of paternity fraud dives deep into the most primal human evolutionary fear. No man wants to raise a child not of their own blood – for the most part, because family is more than just blood and adoption works just fine – and this is a deception that has lifelong consequences. By the time family solicitors are involved, the damage has already been well done and it can be emotionally devastating to all involved.
The child should not be considered an unwanted mistake. However, paternity fraud is a severe crime and destroys lives and relationships. Some believe that it would be better to just rip the bandage out early, or feel completely secure despite the short-term distress it would bring to the relationship.
It is also significantly cheaper to test for paternity while pregnant than later.
Why would someone commit paternity fraud?
There are a few reasons why someone might commit paternity fraud.
One reason is for financial gain. Someone might pretend their partner is the child’s father in order to receive child support or other financial benefits.
Another reason is for emotional gain. Someone might have the desire to have a father figure for a child, and this would allow them to do so even if they are not related by blood.
Of course, there are also other reasons why someone might commit paternity fraud, but these are two of the most common.
What less emotionally charged reasons would require a paternity test before the child being born?
A paternity test before the child is born could be necessary for medical reasons. For example, if the father has a genetic condition that could be passed on to the child, he might want to know if the child has this condition so he can be better prepared to care for them. Or, if the mother is at risk for certain medical conditions herself, a paternity test could help to inform the doctors of what they need to know to keep both her and the baby safe.
This can also be a part of child surrogacy, in which the egg donor and sperm donor are gestated in the womb of a volunteer third person.
Identification of paternity is also necessary because the period of human conception is an unreliable variable. If a woman had sex with different partners within a specified timeframe, it may be unclear who the actual father of their baby might be.
A paternity test may also be required if there is a concern that the father is not the biological father of the child (for example, if the parents had an affair or if the mother had been raped), though this can be a very emotionally charged situation as well.
It need not even be a hurtful question. Some women would even prefer to have their boyfriend know for sure that the child is his; so that there is no room for doubt or question before or after marriage.
It also has several advantages such as establishing a medical history and legal history for your baby, counting for benefits like inheritance and social security, and can strengthen the both between the father and the child.
Fatherhood is presumed
The Child Maintenance Services (CMS) presumes parentage that the former husband is the partner for different reasons.
- being married to the child’s mother at any time between the conception and the birth of the child (if the child has not since been adopted)
- being named as the father of the child on the child’s birth certificate and the child has not been adopted since the birth certificate was completed
- refusing to take a DNA test
- taking a DNA test that shows you are the parent
- adopting the child
- being named in a court order as the parent of a child where the child was born to a surrogate mother (a woman who has carried the child for another person)
- being the person who, by law, is said to be the parent of a child born as a result of fertility treatment (under Section 27 or 28 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990)
- being declared to be a parent of a child in a ‘declaration of parentage’ made by a court and the child has not since been adopted (in Scotland this is called a ‘declarator of parentage’)
- being found or judged to be the parent by a court, even if parentage was not the central issue of the case
Invasive vs Non-invasive Paternity Testing
In general, invasive paternity testing can be done from as early as 10 weeks into a pregnancy by taking a sample of cells from the placenta. This is considered invasive because it can pose a risk to the health of both the mother and the fetus.
An amniocentesis test may be performed between 14 and 20 weeks of the pregnancy. This test is also used to detect brain and spine birth defects, abnormalities in chromosomes, and possible genetic disorders. A small thin needle is used to take a sample of amniotic fluid from the uterus from outside through the abdomen. It has a small risk of miscarriage.
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) also uses a thin needle or tube that goes into the vagina and through the cervix. It takes a sample of the Chorionic villi, which are small pieces of tissue that are attached to the uterine wall and have the same genetic makeup as the fetus. It can be performed within 10 to 13 weeks of the pregnancy. It can also test for potential birth problems. It also has a small chance to cause a miscarriage.
Non-invasive paternity testing can be done from as early as 9 weeks by taking a sample of fetal DNA from the mother’s blood and comparing it with the potential father’s DNA. This is considered non-invasive because it is done from a sample that the fetus has already produced naturally. It is also up to 99% accurate. It does not however test for any potential birth problems.
Should you open Pandora’s Box of knowing?
According to some research, up to 1 in 50 men in the UK are unknowingly raising children that are not their own.
For unmarried partners, this is a simpler question. It would be complete paternity fraud to pass off someone else’s child as a reason to marry.
If you are already in a marriage and with children that are biologically yours, you cannot just discard a child that has a different father. The law protects more strongly the rights of the child to have two parents. The actual father would have parental rights to their child, and this would be a complex issue for family solicitors to solve. Infidelity is a significantly easier problem to solve than parental fraud, co-parenting has many prior model cases.
In any case, noninvasive prenatal paternity testing is very safe, not very expensive, and very reliable. Knowing sooner is much better than later.