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New testing procedure can determine paternity before birth

The age-old question of who a baby's father is has been a critical and emotionally charged affair. Just look at all the Jerry Springer episodes still running. Paternity carries a host of legal and financial implications that until recently, could not be resolved until after the child was born.

According to an MLive.com report, ARCPoint, a South Carolina based paternity testing company, has developed a procedure where paternity can be established as early as the first trimester. The procedure involves using fragments of the fetus' DNA found in the mother's blood and testing them with a cheek swab from the father. The procedure may supplant amniocentesis, which is the current prenatal option for determining paternity.

Rick Van Laan, president of ARCPoint, explained some of the benefits of early testing. He mentioned that potential fathers and grandparents appreciated the advance notice as it would end speculation (in some cases) and give them peace of mind. This would also allow them to support mothers' emotional needs and avoid the upheaval that often leads to custody disputes.

Van Laan also speculated as to whether the new test will lead to future changes in law. Currently, a support obligation begins once a man is legally recognized as the child's biological father. As such, a paternity suit must be initiated (after the child is born) and DNA tests must be performed before a paternity order can be issued. Van Laan envisions a process where the tests may be performed before birth, which will enable the state to pursue child support payments before a child is born.

Source: MLive.com, Kalamazoo lab first in West Michigan to conduct new prenatal paternity test, December 4, 2012

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