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Dad is in Prison – Is Paternity DNA Testing Possible?

Knowing a child’s paternity is very important, even if the father is in prison. California’s legal process for conducting a paternity DNA test on someone behind bars is relatively simple.

Even if the likely father of a child is in prison, it can be useful to know if he is or is not the father of the child. By definitively establishing paternity by performing paternity DNA testing, the child can benefit in several ways:

  • Understand his or her family genetics – Because emerging genetic science offers clues to diseases, the child can benefit from knowing where half his genes come from.
  • Access to benefits and inheritances – If the father dies, a minor child would be entitled to social security and veteran’s benefits.
  • Establish a paternal-child relationship – Regardless of circumstances, children prefer to know who their parents are. This is a starting point for childhood development that can nurture the child into an aware and responsible adulthood.

Often, a father will discover paternal instincts that lead to positive developments in his own life – developing skills, seeking employment and taking on the financial responsibilities of child support.

The legal process for paternity DNA testing in prisons

The California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) helps facilitate DNA testing of fathers who may be inaccessible or unwilling to take a test.

A father may choose to simply sign the Paternity Opportunity Program Declaration of Paternity form when the child is born. But if he refuses or is not present in the hospital – perhaps because he is already incarcerated – the CDCSS can guide a mother to get a court order for a paternity test. Working through a community child support agency, the paperwork is filed with the family court to request the paternity test.

Note that home pregnancy tests can be used as a preliminary device, just so family members know with about 99 percent certainty who the father is. But home tests are inadmissible in court and for all other legal purposes. This is because the testing methods (including who is actually tested) need to be certified by accredited testing facilities.

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