We have all caught at least one episode of The Maury Povich Show, in which the host reveals the paternity of a child with either a “You are the father” or a “You are not the father.” Perhaps you have also wondered about the identity of your child’s biological father, either because of multiple relationships around the time of conception, or even because the child was conceived by an unknown perpetrator in an act of violence.
One thing that such a Maury moment requires, however: the willing participation of the suspected father. What if the suspected father has passed away, disappeared, or refuses to take a paternity test? Hiring a lawyer to pursue a paternity suit in court could become very expensive. If the suspected father has gone missing or died, then even a paternity suit cannot help.
Now, however, in the 21st century, simple DNA test kits, offered by major companies like Ancestry, 23andMe, and FamilyTreeDNA for less than $100, have the ability to unlock the identity of your child’s biological father and answer the question once and for all.
If your child has not yet reached the age of 18, you can buy and administer an Ancestry or 23andMe DNA test kit for them, so long as you are their parent or legal guardian. FamilyTreeDNA does not allow children below the age of 13 to take their tests, even with permission and guidance from their parent or guardian.
After collecting your child’s saliva sample and sending it back to the DNA testing company, you need only set up your online account and wait a mere month or two for your child’s list of DNA matches to appear. If your child’s biological father has already tested through the same company, their appearance at the top of your child’s DNA match list may answer the question definitively. If one of your child’s biological father’s other close relatives (parent, sibling, etc.) has tested through that company, then you may quickly ascertain your child’s biological father’s identity with near certainty.
However, oftentimes parents who test their child’s DNA open up the list of matches to see a long list of unfamiliar names, representing distant cousins of your child’s biological father. The bewildering stream of non-matching surnames may feel discouraging. Before giving up on the mystery, consider hiring a professional genetic genealogist to help you find the truth.
Genetic genealogists can identify your child’s biological father by tracing the ancestors of the matches who share the most DNA with your child (i.e., your child’s closest relatives in that DNA company’s database). The genealogist looks for a common ancestor that many of these matches share. Once identifying a common ancestor, the genealogist can reverse engineer the family tree of that ancestor’s descendants, finding all of that ancestor’s children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and so on. The genealogist rules out many of these descendants because they were not the right age to conceive your child, not in the right geographic location to conceive your child, or in some way do not match the mother’s recollections about the child’s biological father. This process of deduction may leave only one viable candidate for the child’s biological father remaining. If multiple candidates remain, further investigation by the genealogist can pinpoint the precise identity of the biological father with greater certainty.
A professional genetic genealogist can accomplish all of this without the biological father’s cooperation, or without the biological father even knowing about the process. A legitimate fear of retaliation or unwanted drama may make this approach much more prudent than asking a man outright to take a paternity test. If knowledge of a child’s biological father’s identity is wanted for child support, custody, or other court-related reasons, then a direct, father-child paternity test will still be legally necessary. Laws require AABB-accredited labs to conduct paternity tests that will hold up in court, and companies like Ancestry forbid users from using their DNA test results in judicial proceedings. However, if you want to know your child’s biological father’s identity simply for your own peace of mind, or to give you the confidence to go forward with a court-ordered direct paternity test, or to help your child make the best health/medical decisions, a genetic genealogist with the right expertise and experience can likely get you the answers you need.
Are you a parent or guardian who wants to use DNA testing to discover your child’s biological father’s identity, but a direct paternity test is not currently an option for you? Contact Josiah Schmidt today for a free consultation!