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Parental testing is the use of genetic fingerprinting to determine whether two individuals have a biological parent–child relationship. A paternity test establishes genetic proof whether a man is the biological father of an individual, and a maternity test establishes whether a woman is the biological mother of an individual. Though genetic testing is the most reliable standard, older methods also exist, including ABO blood group typing, analysis of various other proteins and enzymes, or using human leukocyte antigen antigens. The current techniques for paternal testing are using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). Paternity testing can now also be performed while the woman is still pregnant from a blood draw. DNA testing is currently the most advanced and accurate technology to determine parentage. In a DNA parentage test, the result (called the 'probability of parentage) is 0% when the alleged parent is not biologically related to the child and the probability of parentage is typically 99.99% when the alleged parent is biologically related to the child. However, while almost all individuals have a single and distinct set of genes, rare individuals, known as "chimeras", have at least two different sets of genes, which can result in a false negative result if their reproductive tissue has a different genetic makeup from the tissue sampled for the test.
Parental testing can be performed easily through established companies in the United States with AABB accreditation  and in Canada through a SCC accredited laboratory. The testing is performed by collecting Buccal cells found on the inside of a person's cheek using a Buccal swab or cheek swab. These swabs have wooden or plastic stick handles with a cotton on synthetic tip. The collector rubs the inside of a person's cheek in order to collect as many Buccal cells as possible. The Buccal cells are then sent to a laboratory for testing. For paternity testing, samples from the alleged father and child would be needed. For maternity testing, samples from the alleged mother and child would be needed.
It is possible to determine who the biological father of the fetus is while the woman is still pregnant through procedures called chorionic villus sampling or Amniocentesis. Choronic villus sampling (CVS) retrieves choronic villus (placental tissue) in either a transcervical or transabdominal manner. Amnio retrieves amniotic fluid by inserting a needle through the pregnant mother's abdominal wall. These procedures are highly accurate because they are taking a sample directly from the fetus, however, there is a small risk for the woman to miscarry and lose the pregnancy as a result. Both CVS and Amnio require the pregnant woman to visit a genetic specialist known as a maternal fetal medicine specialist who will perform the procedure.
Current advances in genetic testing has led to the ability to determine who the biological father is while the woman is still pregnant through a noninvasive method. There is a small amount of fetal DNA present in the mother's blood during pregnancy. Scientists have been able to increase the percentage of the fetal DNA by adding a preservative after the mother's blood is drawn. This allows for accurate fetal DNA paternity testing during pregnancy from a blood draw which has no risk of miscarriage. There are only a few companies in the United States offering a noninvasive prenatal paternity test.
The DNA of an individual is the same in somatic (nonreproductive) cell. Sexual reproduction brings the DNA of both parents together randomly to create a unique combination of genetic material in a new cell, so the genetic material of an individual is derived from the genetic material of both their parents in equal amounts. This genetic material is known as the nuclear genome of the individual, because it is found in the nucleus.
Comparing the DNA sequence of an individual to that of another individual can show whether one of them was derived from the other. However, DNA paternity tests are not currently 100% accurate. Specific sequences are usually looked at to see whether they were copied verbatim from one of the individual's genome to the other. If that was the case, then the genetic material of one individual could have been derived from that of the other (i.e., one is the parent of the other). Besides the nuclear DNA in the nucleus, the mitochondria in the cells also have their own genetic material termed the mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA comes only from the mother, without any shuffling.
Proving a relationship based on comparison of the mitochondrial genome is much easier than that based on the nuclear genome. However, testing the mitochondrial genome can prove only if two individuals are related by common descent through maternal lines only from a common ancestor and is, thus, of limited value (for instance, it could not be used to test for paternity).
In testing the paternity of a male child, comparison of the Y chromosome can be used since it is passed directly from father to son.
In the US, AABB has regulations for DNA paternity and family relationship testing, however, AABB-accreditation is not necessary. DNA test results are legally admissible if the collection and the processing follows a chain of custody. Similarly in Canada, the SCC has regulations on DNA paternity and relationship testing, however, this accreditation is recommended but not necessary.
The first form of any kind of parental testing was blood typing, or matching blood types between the child and alleged parent, which became available in the 1920s. Under this form of testing, the blood types of the child and parents are compared, and it can be determined whether there is any possibility of a parental link. For example, two O blood type parents can only produce a child with an O blood type, and two parents with a B blood type can produce a child with either a B or O blood type. This most often led to inconclusive results, as only 30% of the entire male population can be excluded from being the possible father under this testing. In the 1930s, a new form of blood and bodily fluid testing, serogical testing, became available, with a 40% exclusion rate.
In the 1960s, highly accurate genetic paternity testing became a possibility when HLA testing was developed, which compares the genetic fingerprints on white blood cells between the child and alleged parent. Paternity testing technology advanced with the isolation of the first restriction enzyme in 1970, and accuracy was further improved with the development of PCR between 1975 and 1980. As a result, parental testing could be done with 80% accuracy, and in some cases, 90%. Subsequent advances in DNA testing technology during the 1980s and 1990s allowed parentage to be established with 99.99% accuracy or higher.
The DNA parentage test that follows strict chain of custody can generate legally admissible results that are used for child support, inheritance, social welfare benefits, immigration, or adoption purposes. To satisfy the chain-of-custody legal requirements, all tested parties have to be properly identified and their specimens collected by a third-party professional who is not related to any of the tested parties and has no interest in the outcome of the test.
The quantum of evidence needed is clear and convincing evidence, that is, more evidence than an ordinary case in civil litigation, but much less than beyond a reasonable doubt required to convict a defendant in a criminal case.
In recent years, immigration authorities in various countries such as U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, France, and others have been requesting immigration petitioners and beneficiaries in a family-based immigration case to voluntarily take the DNA parentage test when primary documents such as birth certificate to prove biological relationship are missing or inadequate.
In the U.S., immigration applicants bear the responsibility of arranging and paying for DNA testing. The U.S. immigration authorities require that the DNA test, if pursued, be performed by one of the laboratories accredited by the AABB (formerly American Association of Blood Banks). Similarly in Canada the lab needs to be accredited by the SCC.
Although paternity tests are more common than maternity tests, there may be circumstances in which the biological mother of the child is unclear. Examples include cases of an adopted child attempting to reunify with his or her biological mother, potential hospital mix-ups, and in vitro fertilization where the laboratory may have implanted an unrelated embryo inside the mother.
Other factors such as new laws regarding reproductive technologies using donated eggs and sperm and surrogate mothers can mean that the female giving birth is not necessarily the legal mother of the child. For example, in Canada, the federal Human Assisted Reproduction Act provides for the use of hired surrogate mothers. The legal mother of the child may, in fact, be the egg donor. Similar laws are in place in the United Kingdom and Australia.
In the United States, paternity testing is fully legal, and fathers may test their children without the consent or knowledge of the mother. Paternity testing take-home kits are readily available for purchase, though their results are not admissible in court, and are for personal knowledge only. Only a court-ordered paternity test may be used as evidence in court proceedings. If parental testing is being submitted for legal purposes in the U.S. including immigration, testing must be ordered through a lab that has AABB accreditation for Relationship DNA testing. All accredited labs are listed on the AABB's website. The legal implications of a paternity result test vary by state and according to whether the putative parents are unmarried or married. If a paternity test does not meet forensic standards for the state in question, a court ordered forensic test may be required for the results of the test to have legal meaning. For unmarried parents, if a parent is currently receiving child support or custody, but DNA proves that the man is not the father later on, the support automatically stops; however, in many states this testing must be performed during a narrow time window if a voluntary acknowledgment of parentage form has already been signed by the putative father; otherwise, the results of the test may be disregarded by law, and in many cases a man may be required to pay child support even though the child is biologically unrelated. In a few states, if the mother is receiving the support, then that alleged father has the right to file a lawsuit to get back any money that he lost from paying support. As of 2011, and in most states, unwed parents confronted with a voluntary acknowledgement of parentage form are informed of the possibility and right to request a DNA paternity test. If testing is refused by the mother, the father may not be required to sign the birth certificate or the voluntary acknowledgement of parentage form for the child. For wedded putative parents, the husband of the mother is presumed to be the father of the child. However, in most states, this presumption can be overturned by the application of a forensic paternity test, but in many states the time for overturn this presumption may be limited to the first few years of the child's life, depending on the law of the state in question.
Personal paternity testing kits are available. Courts also have the power to order paternity tests during divorce cases.
DNA Paternity Testing for personal knowledge is legal and home test kits are available by mail from representatives of AABB and ISO 17025 certified laboratories. DNA Paternity Testing for official purposes, such as sustento (child support) and inheritance disputes, must follow the Rule on DNA Evidence A.M. No. 06-11-5-SC which was promulgated by the Philippine Supreme Court on October 15, 2007. Tests are sometimes ordered by courts when proof of paternity is required.
In the United Kingdom, there were no restrictions on paternity tests until the Human Tissue Act 2004 came into force in September 2006. Section 45 states that it is an offence to possess without appropriate consent any human bodily material with the intent of analyzing its DNA. Legally declared fathers have access to paternity testing services under the new regulations, provided the putative parental DNA being tested is their own. Tests are sometimes ordered by courts when proof of paternity is required. In the UK, the Ministry of Justice accredits bodies that can conduct this testing. The Department of Health produced a voluntary code of practice on genetic paternity testing in 2001. This document is currently under review, and responsibility for it has been transferred to the Human Tissue Authority.
Any paternity testing without a court order is banned, due to the official desire to "preserve the peace" within French families, with the French government citing psychologists who state that fatherhood is determined by society rather than biology. French men often circumvent these laws by sending samples of DNA to foreign laboratories, but risk prosecution if caught. The maximum penalty for carrying out secret paternity testing is one year in prison and a €15,000 fine.
Under a 2009 law, secret paternity testing is illegal, and any paternity testing must be conducted by a licensed physician and with the consent of both parents with the exception of sexual abuse and rape cases. Any genetic testing done without the other parents' consent is punishable with a 5,000-Euro fine. Paternity testing with legal standing must be ordered by courts, and court-ordered tests are allowed even against the consent of the mother. Due to a reform in the law, any man who contests paternity no longer automatically severs legal rights and obligations to the child.
A paternity test with any legal standing must be ordered by a family court. Though fathers have access to "peace of mind" paternity tests through overseas laboratories, family courts are under no obligation to accept them as evidence. It is also illegal to take genetic material for a paternity test from a minor over 16 years of age without the minor's consent. Family courts have the power to order paternity tests against the will of the father in divorce and child support cases, as well as in other cases such as determining heirs and settling the question involving the population registry. A man seeking to prove that he is not the father of the child registered as his is entitled to a paternity test, even if the mother and natural guardian object. Paternity tests are not ordered when it could lead to the murder of the mother, and until 2007, were never ordered when there was a chance that the child could have been conceived outside of marriage, making them a mamzer under Jewish law.
Men have access to peace-of-mind paternity testing, but a test with legal weight can only be done through an accredited laboratory.
In China, paternity testing is legally available to fathers who suspect their child is not theirs. Under Chinese law, a paternity test is also required for any child born outside the one-child policy in order for the child to be eligible for a hukou, or family registration record. Family tie formed by adoption can also only be confirmed by a paternity test. A large number of Chinese citizens seek paternity testing each year, and this has given rise to many unlicensed illegal testing centers being set up.
Reverse paternity determination is the ability to establish the biological father when the father of a person, or a suspect, is not available. The test uses the STR alleles in mother and her child, other children and brothers of the alleged father and deduction of genetic constitution of the father by the basis of genetic laws to create a rough amalgamation. The advantage of this knowledge is the ability to compare the father's DNA when a direct sample of the father is not available. An episode of Solved (TV series) shows this test used to see if a blood sample matches with the victim of a kidnapping.