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What do you know about paternity tests?

If you are like other men here in Texas, becoming a father fills you with mixed emotions. On the one hand, you could feel anxious and fearful, and on the other, you can't wait to meet your child and watch him or her grow. Even with these conflicting emotions, you don't shy away from your responsibilities and want to be part of your child's life.

The only problem is that the law does not consider you the legal father of your child if you are not married to his or her mother. You have to establish paternity, and a big part of doing so involves a DNA test to determine biological paternity, especially if the mother will not acknowledge your parentage.

What's the deal with paternity tests?

Knowing that your right to visitation and a legal relationship with your child hinges on the results of a DNA test may leave you wanting to know more about the tests and the process. Here are some of the basics:

  • You can't just order a DNA testing kit that you use in your home and send off for the results, which the law considers a non-legal test. Instead, a legally recognized company must conduct the test under certain conditions in order for you to present the results in court.
  • You can arrange for testing on your own, or you could go through the courts. A court-ordered test will usually occur through a laboratory the court approves of and works with often.
  • If you choose your own testing company, you must choose an AABB accredited laboratory. 
  • Most DNA tests are done with cheek swabs from both you and the child. However, blood tests also happen, especially if you want to establish paternity prior to birth.
  • A legal DNA test ordinarily costs anywhere from $300 to $500.

If the results of the test show you are the child's biological father, you can then seek an order from the court ruling you as his or her legal father. You can then pursue visitation or custody, take part in decisions regarding your child's life such as his or her healthcare, and establish benefits for your child such as an inheritance, Social Security benefits or veterans' benefits. You also receive the right to build a relationship with your child.

If you need to establish yourself as the legal father of your child, you may want to discuss your situation with an attorney. Even if the mother agrees to the process, you must still go through the legal process to do so, and any misstep could cause you unnecessary problems.

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