Can Paternity Tests Be Wrong?
Can Paternity Tests Be Wrong?

The laws regarding a parent’s duties to provide for their children can vary from one state to another. In general, most states have laws requiring biological parents to support their children in various ways.

However, there are instances where disputes over whether someone is or is not a child’s biological father arise. Courts will often require those involved in such disputes to take paternity tests. These tests will usually confirm whether someone is a child’s father.

Are paternity tests always accurate? Not necessarily. While they are accurate most of the time, it is possible for the results of a paternity test to be incorrect. This general overview will explain how this might happen.


How Paternity Tests Work

A child gets half of their DNA from their biological mother. The other half comes from their biological father.

Thus, paternity tests sample a potential father’s DNA and compare it to that of a child to determine if there is a match. 

DNA samples may be acquired through:

  • Blood
  • Hair
  • Saliva
  • Semen
  • Cheek swabs

It is sometimes even possible to perform these tests before a child is born. Be aware; although the accuracy of many home paternity tests is improving, these tests usually serve little purpose in legal cases. Home paternity tests can give partners some peace of mind if there are questions about paternity.

However, in legal disputes, courts require paternity tests to be conducted via approved clinics.

The Difference Between Inclusion and Exclusion Paternity Tests

Approved clinics usually perform one of two types of paternity tests: inclusion tests or exclusion tests. An inclusion test compares DNA loci.

A DNA locus is a spot on a chromosome indicating the location of a specific gene or gene marker. Inclusion paternity tests involve looking for loci matches between an alleged father’s DNA and a child’s DNA. The more matches that are identified, the greater the chances of paternity.

Exclusion tests account for chromosomes of an alleged father that don’t match those of a baby. Again, a baby must receive 50 percent of their DNA from its father. As such, exclusion tests can rule out some candidates as potential fathers. Generally, exclusion tests deliver more accurate results than inclusion tests.

Why Paternity Tests May Be Inaccurate

Again, it’s rare for the results of a paternity test to be inaccurate. That doesn’t mean you can always trust a test’s results.

Human error is the main factor in inaccurate paternity tests. Any number of mistakes on the part of those taking, handling, or analyzing DNA samples can influence the outcome of a paternity test.

Some inaccurate paternity test results are also the result of tampering. Although rare, there are instances when those involved in paternity disputes are able to access DNA samples. They can tamper with them in a manner that renders a test’s results inaccurate.

Additionally, DNA similarities can muddle the results of a paternity test. For example, family members often share major DNA similarities. It’s possible for someone’s uncle to be deemed the father of their child after taking a paternity test. This may happen even if they did not have a relationship with the mother.

Those who believe that the results of their paternity tests are inaccurate usually have the option of disputing said results. However, because paternity tests are fairly accurate, proving an error was made can be challenging without professional help. It’s often necessary to conduct a thorough investigation identifying any factors that may have invalidated the results of a test.

If you’re disputing the results of a paternity test, strongly consider enlisting the help of a qualified family law attorney. Their expertise can play a critical role in the outcome of your case. 


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