How is DNA Evidence Used in Paternity Lawsuits?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

It seems that whenever I am watching a crime drama on TV, the detective and his team are using some fancy DNA test to figure out who the criminal is.  Unfortunately, that does not happen really at all in the real world (sorry to burst your bubble).  However, DNA testing is used quite often in paternity tests to establish parentage.

Tennessee Code Annotated section 24-7-112 is the primary statute that deals with DNA testing as it relates to parentage.  The statute first states that during any proceeding at which the issue of parentage arises, either party, or the court itself, can request that the parties submit to a DNA test to determine parentage of a child.

As part of this test, the laboratory that examines the results will determine the statistical likelihood that the alleged parents are related to the child.

A rebuttable presumption of parentage is established if the paternity test shows a statistical probability of paternity at 95 percent or greater.  What does that mean exactly?  What is a rebuttable presumption?

So basically, the possible father would have to show that the test is just wrong.  The presumptive dad would have to put on proof of one of four things:  (1) that he had undergone a medical sterilization procedure prior to the probable period of conception; (2) that he had no access to the child’s mother during the probable period of conception; (3) that the man has an identical twin who had sexual relations with the mother during the probable period of conception (how crazy is this!); or (4) the man presents evidence that another man had sexual relations with the mother during the probable period of conception.

If evidence of the last one is presented, then the court will likely order DNA testing of the other man who is alleged to be a possible father.   Bottom line is, in paternity tests, DNA tests are about as conclusive as they come to establishing parentage of a child.

 

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