Establishing paternity can often be a thorny issue in family law, and has vital legal implications for the mother, father, and of course the child. A new, safe, noninvasive blood test that can establish paternity in the eighth or ninth week of pregnancy may greatly affect family law disputes involving pregnant women.
Benefits of the New Paternity Test
Currently, most paternity testing is done after birth. There are other medical procedures available, such as amniocentesis, that can assess paternity during pregnancy, but they are invasive and carry a minor risk of causing a miscarriage, and are thus seldom used for paternity determinations. The new test only requires blood samples from the parents, does not pose a threat to the mother or child, and can be done without the involvement of doctors.
Two different companies have developed and offer the test: Ravgen located in Columbia, Md. and Natera located in Silicon Valley. Ravgen charges from $950 to $1,650, and Natera charges $1,775. The cost of a post-birth test is typically $500.
Understanding its Accuracy
Neither company's test has yet been certified at the accuracy level required for use in child custody cases by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). However, Natera has applied for certification, and the AABB is considering certification of the test. Under Virginia law, a paternity test's accuracy must be 98 percent or higher in order to be valid.
Another possible wrinkle facing the new test gaining legal status is its cost. Since potential fathers can be ordered to submit to a paternity test and have to pay for its cost if they are found to be the father, it's doubtful that the cost of the new test will be considered reasonable unless it can be reduced.
If the test gains legal recognition, the main consequence would likely be requiring fathers to provide child support during pregnancy for day-to-day expenses and health insurance payments. Currently, when the paternity is unclear or the father is challenging it, the financial burden of the pregnancy is placed solely on the mother.
Legal acceptance of a pre-birth paternity test would also allow fathers to petition for child custody and visitation rights earlier as well as have a time advantage in registering an objection to adoption of the child. It may also impact the ability of fathers to sign away their rights to the child earlier, in order to facilitate third party adoptions.
A Fairfax Family Law Attorney Can Provide Answers
Considering this significant technological advancement and the way it may soon alter when paternity and its accompanying rights and responsibilities, it's best to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you are facing a family law issue that may be greatly impacted by early paternity testing. Contact our family law office to schedule a free consultation. Call 703-691-8333 today for more information.