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Earlier paternity testing could impact child custody decisions

For many years, an expecting mother who was unsure about the identity of her baby's father had only a few choices to confirm the father's identity. She could wait until after the child's birth and have DNA tests done or have amniocentesis done during pregnancy and determine the paternity through this potentially risky procedure.

Many Massachusetts women have probably had to wait to confirm the identity of their child's father, but waiting so long could soon become a thing of the past.

Now, new technology has made it possible to detect a fetus's DNA in the blood of a pregnant woman. The test only requires a simple blood draw from the mother and a cheek swab from the potential father. One business in Michigan now offers parents the opportunity to have this testing done. In late November, the facility performed their first paternity test of this kind. It is possible that these types of facilities could soon spread to other states, including Massachusetts.

With this advancement in technology, family law matters that previously often had to wait until after a child's birth could be discussed earlier. For instance, if a mother can confirm the identity of the father early on in the pregnancy, the parents could discuss how they will confront child custody or child support decisions in advance of the child's birth.

As a result, instead of beginning discussions about legal matters after a child's birth, the parents could be ready to make legal decisions shortly after the child's birth. This could result in child custody and child support orders going into effect sooner after the child's birth.

Source: Kalamazoo Gazette, "Kalamazoo lab first in West Michigan to conduct new prenatal paternity test," Yvonne Zipp, Dec. 4, 2012

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