For a child to have a legal father in Florida, the mother must be married at the time of birth or an acknowledgement of paternity must be signed by both parents at the hospital. Otherwise, paternity will need to be established at a later time, most likely using a paternity test.
What are these tests? How do they work? Below we are going to detail four different types of paternity tests that are used in our state.
First, though, let’s talk a bit about why you might want to establish paternity in the first place.
Benefits of Establishing Paternity
There are many benefits to establishing the father’s biological relationship to the child. Doing so tends to be good for mother, the father, and the child alike. Here’s how.
As the mother of the child, identifying the biological father can help to make sure that you and your child are supported financially, as child support can be arranged. Other benefits such as insurance, social security, inheritance, or veteran’s benefits may also be made available to your child. It can also help to give your child the chance to have a relationship with his or her father, and may ease the parenting burden depending on how much the father decides to be involved.
As the father of the child, establishing that you are the biological father opens the possibility of parental rights and potentially shared custody or visitation of your child. It can be unnerving to find out unexpectedly that you are a father, but many men find that they are ultimately glad to establish paternity and gain parental rights regardless of how the situation began.
Of course, the child stands the most to gain from establishing paternity. It is emotionally beneficial for a child to know who his or her father is, and in most cases it is beneficial for the child to have a relationship with the father. Knowing the biological father may also be important medically in the case of conditions that can be inherited. Finally, any child support or other benefits will help ensure that the child has a more comfortable upbringing.
Types of Paternity Tests Used in Florida
Typically DNA is used to determine paternity in modern testing, although blood testing of serum antigen types may be used in some cases. However, the majority of paternity tests are DNA tests, and the main difference is how and when the child’s DNA sample is collected.
Prenatal testing is more costly than postnatal paternity testing, for example, but it may be advisable to know who the father is before birth to ease the mother’s mind and make legal and practical arrangements before the baby arrives.
Here are the four different types of paternity tests most often used.
Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity (NIPP). NIPP testing is considered to be the best option for prenatal paternity testing, as it is both non-invasive and 99.9% accurate. In this test, a blood sample is taken from the mother, and the baby’s DNA that is naturally circulating in the bloodstream is isolated through proprietary, state-of-the-art techniques.
This test can be performed any time after the eighth week of pregnancy, and requires only a simple blood collection from the mother and potential father. It therefore poses no risk to the developing baby.
Amniocentesis. Amniocentesis is performed in the second trimester of pregnancy, ranging from the 14th to the 20th week. In this test, the physician uses an ultrasound to guide a fine needle into the mother’s uterus through the abdomen. The physician then draws out a small amount of amniotic fluid, which is DNA-tested.
Unfortunately, amniocentesis is associated with significant risks to the baby, including birth defects, infection, impaired lung development, and increased risk of miscarriage. It is also an uncomfortable procedure for the mother, and may result in vaginal bleeding. Because of these drawbacks, NIPP is now the preferred method for prenatal paternity testing.
Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS). In chorionic villus sampling, the physician, guided by an ultrasound, inserts a thin needle or tube into the vagina and the cervix to obtain a chorionic villus sample. In some cases a needle may also be inserted through the abdomen.
Chorionic villi are branch-like pieces of tissue attached to the uterine wall. They have the same DNA as the fertilized egg, so can be used to establish paternity. This is done somewhere between the 10th and 13th weeks of pregnancy.
Chorionic villus sampling is associated with some risk of adverse effects. The primary risk is miscarriage, which occurs in 1% of procedures. It is not recommended for women who are carrying twins, have uterine fibroids, a tilted uterus, or have experienced any other complications during pregnancy.
Postnatal Testing. Postnatal testing is more cost-effective than prenatal testing. If the testing is done directly after birth, blood is collected from the baby’s umbilical cord. If testing is done later on, a blood sample or cheek swab may be collected from the child.
Florida has seen a sharp increase in paternity cases in recent years. If you are involved in a paternity case, it is important to act quickly. Consult with a knowledgeable Florida paternity lawyer to learn about your options and how to proceed.