Absent parent tests allow you to prove whether someone is the biological parent of a child, if the ‘alleged’ parent is absent or deceased. It works by testing a member of that absent parent’s family, usually their own parent or sibling. For example, if a mother wanted to check the paternity of her child but the ‘alleged’ father is absent, that child’s paternal grandparents can be tested instead.
Testing providers need a cheek swab sample from the family members to be tested and the samples are then compared to see if there’s a genetic match.
On purchasing, the provider will send you a testing kit with everything you need to take the samples. You can take the samples at home and after you send the kit back, they’ll be in touch with the results a few days later. You can choose how you are contacted, with email generally being the quickest service. Some providers offer express services but these often come with extra fees.
Look out for companies selling cheap kits. That’s exactly what they are – just the kit and no testing. Providers then charge more to actually run the test when you return the samples.
’Peace of mind’ or ‘legal’ test?
There are two types of service for absent parent testing: ‘Peace of mind’ tests and ‘legal’ tests – legal tests are court admissible. The science behind the tests is exactly the same – the difference is that for court admissible tests, somebody official needs to watch them being taken so the court is assured that the samples came from the right people. Court admissible tests also require that the samples be handled securely all the way to the lab.
Are the tests accurate?
Absent parent tests are 100% accurate at ruling somebody out, at saying someone is not the child’s biological parent. Absent parent tests are between 99.99% and 99.9999% accurate at confirming whether someone is the child’s biological parent, depending on the provider. The test is more accurate if you test the ‘present’ parent as well.
The tests compare DNA from both parties at certain ‘DNA locations’ to establish a genetic match. Most providers check 16 locations, some check up to 68 which improves the accuracy but which costs more.
Make sure you decide how many family members you’ll be testing before you order, so you can choose the kit with the right number of tests.
What if the family members to be tested live far apart?
Some providers allow you to have the different parts of the test sent separately to those providing samples. All the kits are labelled so they can be matched back at the laboratory.
Watch out for shipping fees added at the checkout. Some providers with offices in the US will use labs overseas, so if having your samples tested in the US is important to you (and the provider’s website isn’t clear) check out our listings for these details.