A home DNA test is a convenient and relatively cheap way to find out if two people are biologically related. This can be useful for a number of reasons – for example, if a man suspects that his partner has been unfathful and his child may not really be his, a home paternity test kit can accurately confirm or rule-out paternity. All it takes is a quick & painless cheek cell sample from the father and child. Thanks to recent improvements in DNA science, a good DNA testing company can have your results ready in a matter of hours for a modest fee.

But what are limits of a home DNA test? And will the results be accepted in a court of law?

Peace of mind vs. legal testing

A simple at-home DNA test, although scientifically accurate, cannot be used for legal matters. How can the court be sure that the samples came from the people you claim? How do they know they weren’t tampered with? How do they know the samples weren’t contaminated?

DNA companies often refer to this kind of test as a ‘Peace of Mind’ test, because that’s all its good for – your own peace of mind. 

A ‘Legal’ test works differently and is usually more expensive – but the results will be legally valid.

Sample collectors

Unlike a Peace of Mind test, you cannot administer a legal test by yourself. Instead, a trained sample collector will be sent to your home (or another location of your choosing) to take your DNA sample. The collector will check your ID and fill out all the necessary paperwork before taking the samples and transporting back to the DNA lab for analysis. 

The chain of custody

Another important aspect of a legal test is the chain of custody. After your DNA sample has been taken, it will be transported back to the lab under a strictly controlled & recorded chain of custody. This is a requirement for legal testing, as it removes the possibility of the samples being mixed-up or tampered with.

Only accredited labs can carry out legal testing

If you look around online, you will notice that there are hundreds of commercial DNA companies out there. It’s important to note however that only an ISO accredited lab can carry out a valid legal test. Whichever company you choose, make sure that they are fully ISO 17025 accredited. There’s more information about the accreditation process here.

Why would you need a legal test?

A Peace of Mind test is useful if you simply want to confirm your suspicions for your own peace of mind. However, a legal test may be necessary if you want to:
  • Apply for custody of a child
  • Change the name on a birth certificate
  • Get child support payments from an ex-partner
  • Support an immigration case

Other kinds of DNA test

Paternity testing may be the most popular type of DNA test, but there are several others – such as twin DNA testing, sibling tests, maternity tests, aunt/uncle testing and more. Prenatal testing can now be done safely and no-invasively, and you can even use a blood sample to find out the gender of an unborn baby! You can find a comprehensive list of DNA tests here.