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The alleged father is deceased or unavailable for testing. What are the options?

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There are a few different avenues you can explore when an alleged father is deceased or missing.

If the alleged father passed away in the last few years, it is possible that the hospital, pathologist, or medical examiner has maintained a DNA sample. The most common types of sample maintained are blood cards and tubes of blood. If a sample has been maintained, the Next of Kin (usually the child, spouse or parent of deceased) must give permission for the facility to release the sample to our lab for DNA testing or a court order must be obtained. When a DNA sample for the alleged father is available then specimens from the mother and child are obtained and a paternity test can be performed. If a standard sample has been maintained for the alleged father (buccal swab, tube of blood, blood card) the price is the same as a standard paternity test.

If another type of sample exists (pathology slide, paraffin block with tissue, etc.), we can attempt to get a DNA profile from that specimen. In some rare cases, a body can be exhumed and a bone sample can be used. However, an unusual specimen fee would apply for any sample that is not a buccal swab, blood card, or tube of blood, and that cost depends on the type of sample to be tested. There is no guaranty that DNA will be obtained from a DNA profile from an unusual sample, and the specimen fee is nonrefundable in the event we are unsuccessful. The unusual specimen fee also does not include the cost of any paternity or relationship analysis. To discuss the price of an unusual specimen and to discuss the likelihood of getting a profile from that specimen, it is usually best to call and speak with one of our representatives.

If a sample has not been maintained on the alleged father, another option is a grandparent study. In a grandparent study, we need both of the alleged father’s biological parents, the child, and his/her mother. In a grandparent study with the child’s mother, we can still guaranty a 99.99% probability of paternity on a positive test, but on a grandparent study without the child’s mother we can only guaranty a 99% probability. This is because everyone gets half of their DNA from their biological mother and half from their biological father. When we have the child’s mother’s DNA, we eliminate what she gave to the child, and we only compare the other half of the DNA against the grandparents. This is also the reason both grandparents’ DNA is necessary. Between both biological grandparents, we have the alleged father’s DNA profile. If only one of the alleged father’s parents is tested, then only half of his profile is available, and a conclusive result cannot be guaranteed.

In the absence of an available sample for the alleged father and if both of his parents are unavailable, another possibility is a family reconstruction. This is where DNA profiles of surviving relatives of the alleged father are compared to the DNA profiles of the child. We prefer to have the child, the child’s mother (to eliminate what she gave to the child so we know exactly what the child inherited from his/her biological father), and three direct relatives of the alleged father (parent, full siblings, known children). We encourage at least 3 direct relatives, and it is the same price whether one direct relative or all 3 participate (with the exception for the specimen fees). The more surviving direct relatives of the alleged father that participate in the test, the better chance there is of obtaining a conclusive answer. The reason this type of test is a last resort is that it is expensive, it can take much longer, and we cannot guaranty a conclusive answer.

If the child is male and the alleged father has a full brother (who shares the same father), known son, or father who is still living, a Y chromosome study may be available. This only indicates whether or not the testing parties share the same male lineage. It does not indicate the relationships of the testing parties, and does not determine that the alleged father is the father of the child.

If the test does not need to be used for anything official and you are just trying to answer a personal question, you may be able to pursue a home test. This is where an artifact maintained from the alleged father (licked envelope, tooth brush, etc.) is used as his sample and buccal swabs are used for the child and mother. As stated above, any sample that is not a buccal swab, blood card, or tube of blood is subject to an unusual specimen fee, and this fee would apply for the artifact used for the alleged father’s specimen. Since we cannot verify the source of the artifact sample (i.e., we cannot prove whose DNA is on those samples), this test cannot be used for anything official and will not stand up in court.

A few times we have had customers ask if they can use a print-out of the alleged father’s DNA profile from a previous test to compare to the child. If there is a proper chain of custody and permission from the next of kin then it may be possible to use those results for a legal paternity test, but there is no way to be sure. If results don’t need to be used for anything official then using an old profile for comparison is usually possible. However, this route does pose a few limitations. Firstly, we only have the DNA loci on the print-out available for the alleged father’s profile. In other words, if we compare those locations to the profile of the child, and additional testing is needed to get a conclusive answer (either 4 mismatches on a negative test or a 99.99% probability on a positive test), we would not be able to complete the additional testing since all we have is a print-out of the alleged father’s profile instead of having the sample to run more DNA locations.

Also, on all negative tests, the AABB (the accrediting body for relationship testing laboratories) requires the samples to be run twice to rule out the possibility of a sample switch or contamination in the laboratory. We cannot verify that the sample was run a second time on the original test with the alleged father’s profile on it.

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