Paternity Tests – If Not Now, When?

by Jim & Jessica Braz

Pregnancy help organizations like yours often encounter unmarried clients. In fact, 40% of all births in the USA involve unmarried mothers, and the percentage is even higher for women under age 30.

The following, adapted from the book Baby Out of Wedlock: Co-Parenting Basics From Pregnancy to Custody by Jim and Jessica Braz, may be helpful for staff and volunteers who are working with unmarried parents who have questions about paternity tests.

If you are working with a pregnant woman, she may not be sure who the father is if they have multiple partners.Picture9

If you are talking to the father, he probably wants to ask, "are you sure I'm the father?"

Men need to keep in mind that the woman is not telling them this news unless she is pretty darn sure they are the father, and the last thing she wants to hear at this most stressful moment is that he doesn't believe her or that he thinks she must have had multiple partners recently.

However, women should remember that while they may be 100% certain who the father is, the man does not have that same degree of certainty because he does not know for sure who else she has been with besides him.

Jessica was insulted at first when she was asked for a paternity test three months after her son was born. Her lawyer was right to explain that the father just wanted to be 100% sure, as sure as Jess was.

Raising a child is a lifetime commitment. Both parents deserve to be 100% certain who the father of the child is. Certainty is a good thing for all parties involved, including the child.

Fortunately, it is easy enough to test for paternity once the child is born. Family lawyers should insist on this test, and the courts will always order the test if either party requests it. In most jurisdictions, a paternity test is a standard operating procedure. 

Fathers (or children) can quietly test for paternity with an off-the-shelf test from companies like 23 and Me or these days, so the truth will come out eventually. But if either parent wants to enforce parenting rights or child support payments, then a more official test will be required by a court-approved facility.

Testing for parentage before birth used to require extracting amniotic fluid from the mother's belly. It is not a riskless process, and while it may be appropriate in some extreme circumstances, it is probably not the right move for most.

In recent years, medical advances have made prenatal paternity tests possible using the mother's blood and the father's saliva; however, they vary widely in quality and costs. Most can wait until the child is born to test for paternity.

Fathers should try their best not to dispute her when they hear the words, "I'm pregnant, and you are the father." And mothers, try not to be defensive if he asks, "are you sure it's mine?" Neither parent should spend their time and energy arguing about a paternity test during the pregnancy. A proper test will happen if either parent wants it to happen soon after the birth. There will be plenty of things to disagree about over the years; no need to make paternity tests one of them.

Picture10By Jim & Jessica Braz, adapted from their award-winning book, . For more information, including free one-on-consulting, please visit or email Jim & Jessica at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Author Bios: Years before Jim and Jessica Braz married, they each had a child born out of wedlock with other partners. They wrote Baby Out of Wedlock to answer basic, but common questions about this situation, thereby reducing legal bills and leading to healthier co-parenting relationships.