Arons & Solomon | April 22, 2022 | Family Law
Advances in biology have created simple DNA tests. You can get a home test to discover your ethnic makeup and find relatives. Companies even make home tests to identify your dog’s breed.
DNA tests have mixed results when used in court. A DNA test in a criminal or paternity case comes with real-world consequences. As a result, courts will allow you to raise factual challenges to the validity of the DNA test results.
Here are some facts about paternity tests and their reliability in producing accurate results.
Paternity in New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, parents have a legal duty to financially support their children. Parents also have broad rights to have a role in their child’s life by participating in decisions involving the child and spending time with them.
New Jersey presumes a father’s parentage in many ways, including:
- Being married to the child’s mother at the time of birth
- Marrying the child’s mother after the birth and acknowledging paternity or holding the child out as his own
- Supporting the child and holding the child out as his own
- Filing a written acknowledgment of paternity
If a father does not fit into any of these categories, a court can declare the father’s parentage based on evidence of:
- Sexual relations between the mother and father at the possible time of conception
- The statistical probability of the father’s paternity based upon the baby’s birthdate
- Genetic or blood tests plus additional evidence showing the statistical probability of the father’s paternity
Paternity tests come up in three ways in New Jersey courts. A father can use a paternity test to overcome the presumption of paternity and end his obligations toward the child. A mother or child can use a paternity test to prove the paternity of an alleged father to impose his legal obligations toward the child. A father can use a paternity test to establish paternity to gain legal rights to the child.
How Paternity Tests Work
New Jersey law allows genetic tests as evidence of paternity. Genetic tests compare DNA markers between the man and child. When performed and interpreted correctly, genetic tests have an accuracy rate of approximately 99.999%.
A father shares 50% of his DNA with his daughter and 49% of his DNA with his son. The 1% difference comes from the difference in size between the X-chromosome girls inherit from their father and the Y-chromosome sons inherit.
DNA tests compare multiple markers in the father’s DNA to the child’s DNA. If the same markers appear in both samples, the two are likely related. The error rate depends on the number of markers the lab compares.
Errors Involved in Paternity Tests
Paternity tests produce two types of errors:
False negatives happen when the test erroneously excludes the biological father as a genetic match. False negatives can happen when a lab:
- Mixes up samples
- Tests contaminated samples
An alleged father can also manipulate the test into giving a false negative. The most common way to cheat the test happens when a man provides a DNA sample from an unrelated male. A lab can eliminate this type of manipulation with a supervised sample collection.
False positives happen when the test erroneously identifies an unrelated man as the father. False positives happen when the lab uses a test that does not compare enough markers or compares common markers. Bad testing protocols can give false positives in as many as 1.1% of tests, far higher than the 0.001% error rate touted by labs.
The party seeking to establish paternity can also manipulate a test into giving a false positive. They can submit a sample from one of the alleged father’s known relatives, such as the man’s biological children or a niece, nephew, or grandchild.
Wrong Paternity Test Results
Fortunately, New Jersey law requires additional evidence to establish or overcome paternity. You will have an opportunity to challenge an incorrect result and rebut the additional evidence the court must have to declare paternity.
Contact the Bergen County Family and Divorce Law Firm of Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for more help
Contact the experienced family attorneys at Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers today for legal assistance. Visit our law office in Bergen County or give us a call at (201) 487-1199 to schedule an appointment. to schedule a free consultation with our team.