The best way to get a paternity test will probably depend on whether you will be using the results to satisfy a court order, obtain government-funded benefits for your child, or simply to confirm paternity for your own knowledge. When the outcome of a test will be used for legal purposes, you will typically be required to get a paternity test, in person, where the laboratory follows strict collection guidelines. Otherwise, you can order a kit that is designed for home use. In this case, you collect the samples yourself and submit them to a laboratory for analysis. Both methods should produce equally accurate results, but at-home kits are rarely admissible in court.
When you need to get a paternity test to prove parentage in a court of law or for any other legal reason, you will usually be required to provide official test results. This involves making an appointment at a testing center for you and the child. If the child's mother is available and willing to come to the appointment, she can be tested as well, although it is not always necessary.
Upon arrival at your scheduled appointment, you will need to prove your identity. A valid identification card, birth certificate, or other documentation may be required to accomplish this. You will typically need to provide a birth certificate for the child who will be tested as well. The collector will then take impressions of fingerprints and a photograph of the individuals who are participating in the test. This is to avoid any conflict in the future, if the results or test subjects are challenged.
Once the preliminary requirements are met and all paperwork is complete, samples of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are collected from each person participating in the test. This is generally a quick and painless procedure. The collector uses cotton swabs, similar to Q-tips®, to collect DNA material from the inside of each person’s cheek. He then places each sample in a sterile, dry envelope or container and seals the contents, which are then sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results usually arrive at the mailing addresses provided to the testing center within a few weeks.
If you do not need to use test results for legal purposes, you may want to get a paternity test by purchasing a home DNA kit. This is often the most cost-effective option. Most drug stores sell them, or you can buy one via the Internet, through various websites that specialize in paternity and DNA testing.
The do-it-yourself variety is very similar to ones offered at DNA testing centers. It typically comes equipped with a complete set of instructions, cotton swabs, and special containers and envelopes for shipping samples to the laboratory. The results are usually returned quickly, and some companies even provide e-mail reports in addition to hard-copy versions they send through regular mail.