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Mobile paternity tests raise questions

Floridian men who wish to confirm whether they have fathered children may someday have a convenient option available for DNA testing. A mobile testing facility providing fast tests for determining paternity, which is highly relevant in child support determinations, currently roams the streets of New York and may inspire others elsewhere in the United States.

Emblazoned with the words "DNA TESTING" on its side, the modified RV provides a site where DNA samples are taken by a lab tech. The samples are then sent to Ohio, where a laboratory analyzes them and sends results back within three to five days. Testing requires a doctor's prescription, which can be sent by fax directly to the mobile lab.

The basic question of paternity is fundamental to issues of child custody and child support. According to experts, labs process almost 500,000 tests a year. The number reflects an annual increase that might be attributable to the increasing number of babies born to unmarried parents.

State child-support agencies are the labs' biggest customers. In child support investigations, DNA testing can prove that a man resisting responsibility is a biological father to a child needing support. Conversely, men who do not believe that they fathered an ex-partner's children will often seek these tests to confirm that they are not responsible for support payments.

Even more informal at-home DIY tests claiming to analyze DNA are available, but experts advise that these can be contaminated and thus useless in accurately reflecting paternity.

People seeking these tests should be prepared for the possibility of emotional upheaval in case the results are surprising. Sometimes a paternity test can reveal that someone else fathered a man's child, for example. As DNA tests become more and more accessible, people can access information that before used to take weeks.

Experts encourage individuals who need DNA testing to be sure to use accredited facilities in order to have the best chance of an accurate result. The mobile units described above are regulated both by a national association and the state health department.

Source: Fox News, "'Who's Your Daddy?' paternity testing van offers quick DNA results," Aug. 24, 2012

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