A female comedian used to joke that when asked if she had any kids, she liked to reply (with exaggerated swagger): None that I know of…
Clearly, for a woman, bearing a child is a process that is pretty hard to miss. But the question of paternity is another matter altogether, and an issue that has spawned — no pun intended — an entire industry of genetic testing services.
The courts are concerned, above all, with protecting the welfare of the child, and that means primarily determining who should be held responsible for providing support. In Maryland, if a man agrees to sign an Affidavit of Parentage, he is automatically accepted as the father of the child. In cases where the paternity of a child is in question, however, the Court may request — or order — genetic testing of the mother, child and purported father.
Like most medical advances, the test has come a long way. No longer requiring blood to be drawn, the test is now performed via a simple, painless swab of each subject’s inner cheek (known as a buccal swab.) The cells gathered provide DNA samples that are compared to one another to determine the probability of parenthood. In cases where the alleged father is unavailable or deceased, the test can even be performed using preserved samples such as blood or hair provided by a coroner, hospital or similar facility.
In Maryland, the resulting lab report is considered to be sufficient evidence if it establishes either a definite exclusion of the man from the possibility of paternity, or a statistical probability of at least 97.3 percent that the man is the father.