The 10 Best Paternity Tests
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in December of 2016. It used to be a difficult and invasive process to obtain laboratory tests that determine a child's biological father, but with the latest developments in technology, paternity kits are affordable, accurate, and can be used in the comfort of your own home. Though results obtained from most companies will not be admissible in court, some do provide legal tests for an extra fee. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 10, 2020:
When dealing with matters as sensitive as paternity, you’ll want to know you’re using a testing kit that will provide valid results. For this reason, all the kits included on our list have a high degree of accuracy. The My Forever DNA checks 24 loci, or markers, and requires all final reports to be verified by their experienced chief-of-staff, leading to their 99.99 percent accuracy. They will also redo the test for free, should you fail to provide enough genetic material on the swabs. Similarly, the Alpha BioLabs Kit provides results you can trust, by looking at a whopping 35 markers. It also includes detailed instructions for a straightforward collection process.
Results of any type of test tend to be more accurate when double-checked, and a couple of the companies on our list do just that. Genovate Analysis puts each sample through two rounds of testing, minimizing the chance of human error, and contributing to a higher degree of accuracy. The Rapid DNA Collection takes their second-check process a step further by using separate teams of technicians for each test, almost mimicking their own small-scale peer review.
Generally, seeking answers to questions of paternity is a nerve-racking experience and you’ll want results as soon as possible. Though several kits state results are available in two business days, it’s important to remember that the clock doesn’t start until samples reach the lab. It can be helpful to account for the time it takes to ship, collect samples, repackage, and make its way back to the lab. That being said, if timing is really of the essence, the Alpha Heelix Express is a great choice for you. This company not only promises a finalized report in two business days, it also provides overnight return shipping, so your samples won’t be floating in transit for days or weeks.
Usually, the most reputable testing kits include lab fees in the initial purchase, so buyers won’t have to pay additional fees down the road. For this reason, most of the options on our list are all-inclusive; however, the Identigene Collection Pack is not. The super-low list price can be misleading, but we thought this particular kit deserved a spot on our list since it’s specifically intended for residents of New York State. With unique laws regarding paternity testing, New York state may not legally recognize many at-home kits. However, the Identigene company specifically says their kit is made for use in NY state and, in fact, it is not valid in any of the other 49.
If money is tight, it’s easy to lean toward an at-home testing kit, versus seeing your doctor or going to a lab. However, it’s worth noting that many of these kits are not admissible in court. So if you’re in a legal dispute, or feel you will be in the near future, make sure to research which options are legally admissible. Otherwise, you may end up spending more for an additional test. That being said, if you’re looking for the most affordable choice on our list, the Paternity Depot Pack is it. Their turn-around time is about a week, which is longer than some other options on our list, but waiting a few more days for results may be worth the financial savings. Additionally, the slightly pricier DNA Direct Solutions and HomePaternity Complete, both of which return results in as little as two business days, are also economical choices.
July 10, 2019:
One of the biggest factors we considered when making these rankings was whether lab fees were included or not. We felt that including the fees is a sign of a trustworthy company, as many others try to lure you in with a cheap initial investment, only to nickel-and-dime you with fees once they have you on the hook. The selections at the very top of the list all boast inclusive pricing.
Some companies — like the manufacturers of the HomePaternity Complete — take pains to keep you in the loop, which is always appreciated. They'll alert you when your samples have been received, as well as when testing is complete. This saves you from needlessly sitting by the phone or waiting by the mailbox for days on end.
Regardless of which kit you pick, however, it's important to use a dedicated paternity test rather than a generic ancestry kit. While the latter are a lot of fun and can be informative, they're not foolproof when it comes to establishing paternity — and this is one situation where being 100% certain is absolutely essential.
LabCorp DNA This lab tests twenty-one loci, a thoroughness that gives you a one-in-a-billion chance of creating a false positive. Though it's more expensive than other kits, it provides extremely accurate results you can feel sure about. labcorpdna.com
TestMe DNA One of the biggest downsides to performing an at-home test is the fear of doing it wrong and submitting an invalid sample. However, you can sidestep that concern by going to a TestMe lab, where professionals handle every step of the process so you don't have to. testmedna.com
Genetrack Biolabs If you need results that will hold up in court, but don't want to go to a testing facility, Genetrack Biolabs has a legally-admissible option that can be done at home. Additionally, it allows you to submit samples from both the father and the mother. genetrackus.com
A Brief History Of Paternity Tests
For most of human history, determining a child's father has been tricky at best.
For most of human history, determining a child's father has been tricky at best. Before the days of DNA testing, the only thing potential fathers could do was ask themselves, "Does this kid really look like me?" Given what we now know about genetics, it's not a stretch to assume this method led to a lot of false positives.
Typically, the most common reasons a child's paternity was called into question was due to their skin tone or eye color not matching that of the father's. Of course, that's hardly an exact science. Due to the fact that there are a variety of genes involved in determining the hue of your iris, there's always a chance a child could have eyes that don't match either parent, even when the infant's lineage isn't in doubt.
By the early 20th century, however, the model shifted to favoring blood types instead. This was far more useful, as you can use blood types to disqualify paternity in some cases. For example, two parents with type O blood can only produce offspring with type O blood, so if the child in question is type A, we can eliminate the potential father.
This method, while more scientifically-rigorous than simply comparing eye colors, still had only about a 30 percent success rate. Researchers kept trying, and in the 1970s they discovered the human leukocyte antigen, which is much more dependent on genetic inheritance than blood type. Tests examining this antigen had closer to a 90 percent accuracy rate, significantly better than before, but still not doubt-proof.
DNA testing became the standard starting in the 1980s, due to the fact that every single person (save identical twins and the like) has a unique DNA profile that's an equal mixture of both parents. These tests boasted a staggering 99 percent accuracy rate.
Advances in testing continue to be made, and the most significant recent breakthrough involves testing saliva instead of blood. These at-home exams can be done quickly and painlessly, and there are even tests using amniotic fluid that can establish parentage before the child is born.
It's never easy when a baby is born amid questions of paternity. However, modern testing makes determining the father both easy and extremely reliable, allowing all parties involved to move on with their lives, and ensuring the child can grow up without any doubt as to who they truly are.
Choosing The Right Paternity Test
If you're seeking answers as to who a child's rightful father is, you'll surely want a reliable test that prioritizes accuracy.
The court may require you to go through a medical professional or government agency, so check with them before you purchase an at-home test.
The first thing you need to know is that paternity tests are much more specific than typical ancestry panels, so skip all the options that promise to tell you your entire family history. You don't need to know whether the kid's great-great-grandfather came from Spain or Norway in 1910 — you simply need to know who the father is.
While most over-the-counter ancestry tools merely trace the history of your 23 chromosomes, paternity tests directly examine your DNA. For information this important, it's smart to be as exact as possible.
Check to see if the results will be sent to an AABB-accredited laboratory. Some of the less-trustworthy options might send your panels to labs without high quality-control standards, and this is certainly not a situation you want to introduce any doubt into.
If you're getting the test done as part of a lawsuit, check with your lawyer or local authorities to find out which ones the court will recognize. After all, there's no point in waiting for results that the judge will have to throw out. The court may require you to go through a medical professional or government agency, so check with them before you purchase an at-home test.
What You Should Know Before You Test
Sadly, the circumstances surrounding a paternity test are rarely happy. Most of the time, they're used to avoid paying child support, or due to a partner's infidelity.
That being said, it's worthwhile to acknowledge that asking for a paternity test isn't likely to be well-received. You should only do so if you're reasonably certain that the identity of the child's father is in doubt, as the request may make for stressful family dynamics.
If you're up-front about your desire to test and the mother refuses, however, you can always get a court order to perform the test.
That being said, if you're a questioning father, there are ways to find out if you're the dad without alerting the mother to your suspicions. Since these tests don't require any maternal samples, you could swab yourself and the child in secret, before submitting to a lab.
If you're up-front about your desire to test and the mother refuses, however, you can always get a court order to perform the test. This is likely to happen in a custody or child-support hearing, assuming contested paternity. Be aware, though, that in many states, taking on a fatherly role makes you liable for raising the kid, even if your DNA doesn't match.
You should also consider the cost. Most at-home kits are less expensive than their legally-accepted counterparts, despite being every bit as accurate. If you have to obtain results that are legally admissible, you may have to go through a physician, and should expect to pay significantly more.
If you do have to engage in paternity testing, hopefully you'll find an answer that does justice to everyone involved — especially the child.