Paternity fraud and how to avoid it
Many men question the paternity of their children, but only a few are correct to do so. To put that another way, when asked if they have ever been unsure if they are the biological father of their child, many more men say yes than the actual number involved in cases of misattributed paternity. But, given the emotional and financial pressures involved in parenthood, it is perhaps not surprising that so many opt to take a DNA test and find out for sure.
According to a 2014 YouGov study, 8% of UK males have been unsure that they are the biological father of a child, a figure which rose to 15% in the 25-34 age group, and again to 17% in out-of-work fathers.
To compare, only 3% of British women reported that they were unsure who the biological father of their child is.
There have been many studies of false paternity in the UK since the 1950s, most of which have found that the numbers of actual cases of misattributed paternity range from only 1-3%. In 2008, 500 paternity cases handled by the UK Child Support Agency were analysed, and it was found that fathers had been wrongly identified in just 0.2% of cases, or 1 in 500. Of these, between 10% and 19% were deemed paternity fraud – situations in which the wrong father was deliberately identified.
Both mothers and alleged biological fathers may have powerful incentives to commit the crime of paternity fraud, so countering this with reliable evidence is critical.
DNA paternity testing accuracy
Given the accuracy of DNA paternity tests, their use has risen sharply in recent years. Modern genetic testing is known to be 100% accurate when ruling out individuals as a child’s biological father, and accuracy ranges from 99.99% to 99.9999% when confirming a positive paternal match.
This does not mean that people will always receive the results they expect or want. Although just 3% of all women surveyed had ever experienced doubts about the identity of a child’s biological father (compared to 8% of men), this figure rose to a startling 15% in the 18-24 age group. Doubt is clearly deeply ingrained within certain demographics.
Attempts at paternity fraud
Though the testing process itself is known to be accurate, deliberate tampering of samples by participants has been known to occur, and people may go to extreme lengths in order to achieve their preferred results.
There are several ways in way paternity fraud may occur. Alleged fathers may take a DNA sample from a friend in order to avoid taking responsibility for their child. Mothers may switch a father’s DNA sample with someone else’s to thwart his legitimate claim to the child. Some mothers may even provide a second sample from themselves in order to fake a positive paternity result, although of course the gender of the ‘father’ would be detected by any laboratory.
Peace of mind and legal paternity tests
Thankfully there are ways to counter such attempts at paternity fraud. The simplest method is to take a ‘peace of mind’ paternity test in which the mother AND the father produce samples in each others’ presence, along with taking a sample from the child, and then send the samples to the testing company together. This is DNA Testing Choice’s list of companies offering ‘peace of mind’ paternity tests.
Even more secure is a legal test, which requires both parties to supply identification to an independent third party who will physically watch the participants produce their samples and send them to the testing company. Given the additional security, legal tests tend to cost around £100 more than ‘peace of mind’ tests. This is a list of companies that offer legal paternity tests that have been accredited by the Ministry of Justice.
Although attempts at paternity testing fraud are common, successful attempts are extremely rare. Fortunately, paternity testing fraud can be prevented easily in the ways described above. Interestingly, our appetite for these tests has never been greater – in 2014, 67% of British adults believed that it was worthwhile to test a child’s DNA to identify who their father is. It’s good to know that despite the attempts of parents or alleged parents to distort the results, the truth will eventually out with the right precautions.