Complete Guide to Paternity Testing

Paternity testing is all over the place now, from ads on the subway to daytime TV shows and, inevitably, hundreds of celebrities have been using them. Here’s our comprehensive guide to all you need to know about how paternity testing works, who can use it, prenatal paternity testing, and how to choose a paternity test for yourself.

Paternity DNA testing

DNA vs. Paternity Testing: What is the Difference?

Essentially, the difference between DNA testing and paternity testing is simply that not every DNA test also proves paternity. Some DNA tests check the maternal DNA in order to give answers about family history. Also, if you only submit your own DNA for testing and don’t share a sample of the suspected father’s DNA, your DNA test will only tell you about your own genetic make-up and won’t be able to compare it to the other sample to prove paternity.

It's also important to remember that although there are many DNA tests which also check for paternity, not every paternity DNA test is legally accepted. A particular process has to be followed, and in some states, only certain DNA test kits are acceptable as proof of paternity.

What Should You Look for When Choosing a Paternity Testing Company?

If you're on a budget, but you need a paternity test, it's important to know what to look for. Although you want to save money by using the lowest-cost test possible, sometimes that can end up costing you more. If you need a paternity test to establish fatherhood for a legal issue like child support, custody or immigration, then it's important to use a court admissible test like one from Who'zTheDaddy?, International Biosciences, or HomeDNA Direct. These tests use samples collected in sterile conditions in a lab to be sure that there’s no contamination and are carried out according to internationally agreed standards. Otherwise, you might have to pay for another paternity test that’s legally acceptable.

If you want a paternity test because you’re curious about your ancestry, you could choose to spend less money by using a home paternity test. This is where you collect the samples at home and send them in to be analyzed. The results are still 99.99% reliable and have a lower price tag, but you can’t use them as evidence in court. MyHeritageDNA is one option for finding your family through DNA testing. Many companies that offer court-admissible tests also have less expensive peace of mind home testing kits. You can even pick up home DNA tests in most pharmacies.

Prenatal paternity testing gives you fewer choices and price options because you'll be limited to a service that offers prenatal tests and might have to go with the one that your hospital or doctor approves. HomeDNA Direct, International Biosciences, and Who'zTheDaddy? all include prenatal testing.

Here are the main things to consider when choosing the right paternity test:

  • If you need the test for legal purposes, make sure that it’s court-admissible and carried out under sterile conditions
  • Approved and accredited by the AABB international professional standards group, or the ISO 17025 accreditation (or both)
  • Whether the company has labs near to you and/or the alleged father to easily collect sterile samples
  • Experienced staff
  • The confidentiality and privacy policy (for example, if you don’t want your child to be able to access the results without your agreement when he/she reaches adulthood)
  • Speed of processing samples if you need an answer urgently
  • Cost
  • Which prenatal paternity tests are available, if relevant, and whether your doctor approves the process

How Much Does a MyHeritage Paternity Test Cost?

Price$59-$99/test + shipping (paternity testing requires 2 kits)
DNA SourceCheek swab
Time to Results4-6 weeks
ResultsOnline, any device, printable

MyHeritage offers the lowest-priced DNA tests on the market, which is just as well since you’ll need 2 kits for paternity testing – one for the baby and one for the suspected father. The kit contains two easy to use cheek swabs so that you can take two samples from your baby (this is to ensure a more accurate result). After sealing it carefully, you’ll send off your sample and wait 3-4 weeks for the results, which can be a long time if you’re anxiously awaiting an answer.

MyHeritage only offers one DNA testing kit, which is intended for family history enthusiasts to learn more about their heritage. So as a bonus, as well as checking your baby’s paternity, you’ll also get access to a wealth of information about relatives, ancestors, geographical origins, and more.

Get a MyHeritage Kit Now


How Much Does a Who'zTheDaddy? Paternity Test Cost?

PriceStarting at $129/kit
DNA SourceCheek swab (can use other DNA sources as well)
Time to Results4 business days once received by lab
ResultsEmail

Who'zTheDaddy? provides three options for paternity tests – a simple home paternity test kit, a legal DNA testing service that is court admissible, and prenatal paternity testing. The home paternity test is the lowest-cost and fastest option, costing $129 and delivering results in 3-5 working days. It checks 21 genetic markers for the most accurate result and comes with 4 cheek swabs for up to 3 people.

The legal DNA test comes with clear instructions for carrying out the test in a way which ensures that it is court admissible. It costs $299 and takes 4 working days to deliver results, but you’ll need to enlist the help of your doctor and send identity documents for every participant.

The non-invasive prenatal DNA test is the most expensive option at $1,195. It requires a blood draw and takes 7-10 working days to process results, although you can get results in 4 days for the additional cost of $295.

As well as paternity DNA tests, Who'zTheDaddy? also offers:

  • Immigration DNA tests
  • Multiple relationship tests including sibling tests, aunt and uncle tests, twin tests, maternity testing, and genetic reconstruction tests
  • Ancestry DNA tests
  • Clinical DNA tests for genetic predisposition to conditions like cancer or lactose intolerance
  • Pet DNA testing for dogs, cats, and birds
  • Health DNA tests
  • Forensic DNA tests such as semen identification, infidelity DNA testing, and genetic banking

How Much Does a HomeDNA Direct Paternity Test Cost?

PriceFlat rate: $129 + shipping
DNA SourceCheek swab (can use other DNA sources as well)
Time to Results3-5 business days once received by lab
ResultsEmail

HomeDNA Direct also examines 21 genetic markers in order to give a reliable answer in all its paternity tests. The Home Paternity DNA test includes cheek swabs for the probable father and the baby and takes only 3-5 working days to return results. If you aren’t able to get a cheek swab, HomeDNA Direct does accept DNA samples from other material such as hair, toothbrush saliva, and semen, but it warns that the turnaround time for results might be longer and results could be less accurate when using other genetic source material.

HomeDNA Direct’s legal paternity DNA tests cost $299 and are court admissible, as long as you follow the instructions included in the kit. It still takes only 3-5 working days to get results. HomeDNA Direct also offers a non-invasive prenatal paternity DNA test for $1,195. It takes 7-10 working days to get the results, but you can pay $295 for an express service that takes 4 days. You can arrange for sample collection with your own doctor or use HomeDNA Direct’s services for an additional fee.

As well as paternity tests, HomeDNA Direct’s DNA tests include:

  • Immigration tests
  • Relationship testing for status such as grandparents, cousins, siblings, twins, and genetic reconstruction tests
  • Ancestry tests
  • Health DNA tests
  • Animal tests for dogs, cats, and horses
  • Other DNA tests such as semen identification, forensic tests, infidelity tests, and more

How Much Does an International Biosciences Paternity Test Cost?

PriceFlat rate $129 + shipping
DNA SourceCheek swab (can use other DNA sources as well)
Time to Results3-5 business days once received by lab
ResultsEmail

Like other market leaders, International Biosciences checks for 21 genetic markers in order to provide the most reliable answer. Its home paternity test comes with 4 cheek swabs for each participant – including for the mother so that the company can give a more accurate response. The wait time for results is only 3-5 working days.

The legal DNA paternity test costs $299 and comes with instructions to make sure that your results are admissible in a court of law, but the turnaround time to receive results and the number of swabs included are the same. International Biosciences also provides non-invasive prenatal paternity testing for $1,195, which takes 7-10 days to get results and requires a blood draw from the mother. You can choose to learn your baby’s gender from the same blood sample, for an additional $175.

Interestingly, International Biosciences can also perform DNA tests on other samples such as nail clippings, ear swabs, and a used toothbrush, but it warns that it cannot guarantee accuracy in those cases.

As well as paternity tests, International Biosciences also offers these DNA tests:

  • Immigration DNA tests
  • Relationship testing such as twin zygosity, cousinhood, grandparental testing, and Y or X chromosome testing
  • Ancestry DNA tests
  • Health testing
  • Pet DNA testing for dogs, cats, and birds
  • Other DNA tests such as disaster victim identification, infidelity testing, and home DNA banking

Paternity test results

Is a Paternity Test Covered by Insurance?

Generally, paternity tests are not covered either by private health insurance or by Medicaid. However, sometimes if you’re having an amniocentesis or other prenatal test, you can have a sample drawn for a non-invasive prenatal paternity test at the same time so as to avoid paying the extra cost of collecting a DNA sample.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does a DNA Paternity Test Take?

A DNA paternity test takes only a couple of minutes to carry out. Collecting a sample and sealing it in the packaging provided doesn’t take long. The wait to get results can vary – anything from a few days to a few weeks.

Are There Different Types of Paternity Tests?

All paternity tests are based on the same science of extracting genetic material from a DNA source sample, analyzing the genetic markers, and comparing them to those on the father's DNA. But some paternity tests check only 16 markers, while others check 21 for a more reliable response. Postnatal paternity DNA tests are also slightly different from prenatal tests since the sample collection is carried out differently.

Can You Purchase a DNA Paternity Test Kit in Stores? Will it be Cheaper?

You can buy home DNA paternity kits in many stores for a range of prices. Many store-bought DNA paternity kits are cheaper than those reviewed above, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll save money. Many cheap kits have swabs or sample collection methods that are difficult to use, and if you ruin them, you’ll just have to pay for another kit. You’ll also get more accuracy and more reliability using a reputable company like the four mentioned here.

Find Your Answers

Today, paternity testing is easy, fast, and inexpensive so there’s no reason why anyone should carry unresolved doubts about their parentage. Choosing the right paternity test is simple, so now you can pick up a DNA test and learn the truth anytime.

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