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Prenatal Paternity Testing

Who is the father? It's an uncomfortable question that has to be asked when expectant women have had more than one male partner at the time they became pregnant. And, it seems to arise more frequently now than it ever has. Surprisingly, the statistics show that over half of births to women under 30 are out of wedlock.

Determining paternity during a pregnancy is not a new discovery; it can be done by having an amniocentesis or through chorionic villus sampling, but those methods are rarely used to establish paternity because they are invasive procedures and do carry a small risk of miscarriage. By contrast, the new prenatal paternity tests require only blood samples from the pregnant woman and the potential father. Doctors generally need not be involved, and the tests can be administered as early as the 8th or 9th week of pregnancy.

These types of noninvasive paternity tests have been widely available (after the baby is born) for some time, but have been the subject of many complaints about inaccuracy or fraudulent results. However, experts now say the technology has advanced greatly and the tests can now be done reliably. Curious about how the prenatal paternity test works? Well, the test analyzes fragments of DNA from the fetus that are in the mother's bloodstream (in tiny amounts). Interestingly enough, the same procedure can now be used as a noninvasive way to determine the gender of a fetus, or to identify Down's Syndrome.

Currently, neither of the tests that are currently available can be used in child custody cases, because they have not received a certification for accuracy (yet). However, if the tests gain legal acceptance, some lawyers speculate that women and state governments might one day pursue child support payments without having to wait until the birth, to help cover the vast expense of prenatal medical care, labor and delivery.

The test does not come without controversy, as is typical of advancements of this type. Some worry it could lead to more abortions, if the woman finds out the preferred man is not actually the father. Others, though say men who clearly know they are the father might be willing to provide more support both emotionally and financially, during the woman's pregnancy. Studies have suggested that more involvement by the father during pregnancy leads to healthier babies, as well as a lower infant mortality rate if the father's name is on the birth certificate.

The cost of the test ranges from $950 – $1775, compared with a standard post-birth paternity test that averages about $500. We'll keep you posted about any legal developments that may occur as the technology and accuracy certifications continue to progress. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to call our office at 714.969.9910. We'll do what we can to help!

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