A Step by Step Guide on How Paternity Tests Work

If you are considering having a DNA test done, you may be wondering just how a DNA paternity test works.  Here, you will find a step by step guide to paternity tests, answering all of your questions.

DNA Testing

The process of DNA testing is not complicated at all, and is very easy to understand.  While you typically see the process completed, and the results announced, in under an hour on television, this is not the case in real life.  Even though it is not quite that simple, it is easy to explain.

Paternity Testing

Paternity testing can help answer a lot of questions in regards to paternity.  Testing is based on genetic information that is passed on from parents to their children. For example, if you need to find a biological parent, or need to make sure a child is yours, or to determine if a particular person is the father of your child, a DNA paternity test can answer all of these questions due to the newest in technology.

DNA Collection

Arrangements should be made with your own physician or with local laboratory convenient to you to collect your DNA sample. You have probably seen a cheek swab done on television. This is called a buccal swab and is the preferred method of DNA collection. Most labs use this type of sample.  It is much less invasive than taking a blood sample, and much easier.

When a cheek swab is done, the swab will be rubbed inside of your cheek.  This collects skin cells that are unique to you, and your own genetic profile.  Buccal swabs are not cotton swabs. In fact, they are actually specially made swabs that help capture your DNA cells.  These cells are then tested.

These special swabs will have a wooden or plastic handle, and a cotton or synthetic tip. The person who collects the cells will try to collect as many cheek/buccal cells as possible. These cells will then be sent to a lab for testing.


You may be surprised to learn that most DNA is actually the same from person to person. However, portions of your DNA are yours and yours alone, unique.  The unique parts of your DNA are the parts that are tested.  It is easy to find these unique pieces in the cheeks.

Think of your DNA as your ‘genetic fingerprint’, it is unique to you and you only.

Genetic Profiles of Children

Why a paternity test using DNA? Because the genetic profile of any child is one that is inherited from his or her biological parents, both of them.  When you go in for paternity testing, the profile of the alleged father will be taken and then compared to the profile of the child whose paternity is in question. This will determine whether or not he is the child’s biological father.

Today, paternity tests can even be given while the mother is still pregnant.


When you decide to have your paternity testing performed, make sure to find an established company, one with AABB accreditation.

Results will depend upon the type of paternity test you are seeking, either legal or personal, and will typically come back in two days.

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