Free & Low-Cost DNA Paternity Testing: Understand Your Choices

Establishing the paternity of your baby doesn't have to be complicated, but make sure to find the testing option that gives you what you need.

Updated April 28, 2023
father holding newborn baby

Whether you need to establish paternity due to a court order, or simply want peace of mind in proving or disproving a man's genetic relationship with your child, a paternity test is typically 99.9% accurate.

Paternity testing will determine whether a man is the biological father of a child. It works by comparing the DNA profile of a child to a man's DNA profile to see if he is the child's biological father. These tests are done with blood samples or a cheek swab from both the child and the possible father.

If you need a paternity test but are on a tight budget, there are a few low-cost options available.

Free Paternity Tests?

In most cases, paternity tests are not free. DNA paternity test costs range from under $100 to more than $2,000, depending on the type and complexity of the test. For newborn DNA screening tests, costs vary state-by-state.

A handful of companies have a promotion to assist low-income families. They offer free DNA paternity tests on Tuesdays. Choice DNA and Face DNA are two companies that currently do this.

Some cities and counties offer free or low-cost paternity tests, such as Solano County, California, Pitt County, North Carolina, and New York City. Check with your local court and government websites to determine if this is offered in your area.

Court-Ordered Paternity Tests

Paternity tests are often used by the courts in child support and child custody cases. If you require a paternity test for legal reasons, you will need to get the test from a certified collection facility that is accredited and provides a court-admissible document showing the test results. In some cases, the courts or government agency requiring paternity test results may refer you to a specific collection site or laboratory.

If you're not required to get testing at a specific lab or collection site, you must get the testing done at a facility that performs legal paternity tests. These facilities follow strict chain-of-custody requirements for the DNA samples taken and provide documentation with all information required by the courts. Some companies offer at-home, court-admissible paternity tests, but do your due diligence to ensure the results will be accepted by the courts.

At-Home Paternity Tests

If you don't need a paternity test for legal reasons, at-home paternity tests are available for purchase both online and at pharmacies. Over-the-counter paternity tests allow you to collect DNA samples from home and mail the samples to a lab for analysis. These tests are typically less expensive than other paternity tests.

State Paternity Testing Costs

Most states do not pay for paternity testing. Some will provide financial assistance to help cover the costs, but you should expect some out-of-pocket costs, ranging from $30 to $150, depending on your income and where you live. State laws regarding paternity testing vary, so speak with your local Department of Health, or local courts, or contact your caseworker if your test has been court-ordered.

Free Paternity Tests Available Online

You may see advertisements for free paternity tests online. These sites offer to send you a free test kit to collect your DNA sample. While the test kit is free, these companies require you to pay for all shipping and laboratory analysis costs. Similarly, at-home test kits purchased online or at a pharmacy may be affordable in the store, but require you to pay more for lab processing fees and shipping. These tests typically cost well over $100 and are usually not court-admissible.

paternity test

Two Low-Cost DNA Paternity Tests

If you want a paternity test for personal reasons, an at-home DNA paternity test may be the most affordable option. There are many companies online that offer low-cost paternity testing to save you money, but they may not stand up in court.

DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC)

DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) is one of the leading paternity test providers in the US. The legal test from DDC is expensive, but the home test is relatively affordable. DDC processes paternity tests at its own laboratory and provides the fastest available turnaround times. Once your sample arrives at their lab, you can expect your results within 48 hours.

Paternity Depot DNA Test

Paternity Depot offers the lowest-cost paternity home test kits. The cost is $79 and includes cheek swab testing for both the man and the child. This less expensive paternity test option does not provide court documentation, but they do offer documentation for an additional $50 fee that is admissible in court. They include shipping in their costs, and you can expect results approximately three days after your DNA samples have arrived at the lab for processing.

Types of Prenatal DNA Testing

There are a few ways to establish paternity during pregnancy. According to the Cleveland Clinic, prenatal paternity testing options include:

  • Non-invasive prenatal paternity (NIPP). This is a simple test that can be performed as early as 8 weeks into pregnancy. A blood sample is taken from the pregnant parent and potential father. The samples are analyzed using the baby's DNA, which is found in the mother's bloodstream. This will determine whether or not the man has a genetic relationship to the baby in utero.
  • Amniocentesis. Using a needle, a healthcare provider removes a small amount of amniotic fluid from the pregnant parent's abdomen. A lab compares the DNA in the fluid sample to the DNA of the potential father. Amniocentesis can be performed between weeks 15 to 20 of pregnancy.
  • Chorionic villi sampling (CVS). Performed between 10 to 13 weeks of pregnancy, a healthcare provider takes a small tissue sample from the placenta through the pregnant parent's cervix or abdomen. A lab compares DNA taken from the sample to the potential father's DNA to establish paternity.

Both amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling increase the risk of miscarriage, so if possible, it may be best to opt for non-invasive testing.

Non-Invasive Testing Options

If you'd like to establish paternity before the birth of a child, non-invasive prenatal paternity testing kits are available for purchase online. Companies that offer NIPP testing include:

DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC)

The DNA Diagnostics Center offers non-invasive prenatal paternity tests, which can be performed as early as seven weeks gestation. Test kit prices start at $599 for the personal-use test. DNA blood samples from the pregnant parent and potential father will be taken at a DDC-affiliated laboratory near you. Results are usually available within 7 business days, but rush results are available for an additional fee.

Accurate DNA

Accurate DNA offers non-invasive prenatal paternity testing. The test can be performed as early as 7 weeks of pregnancy, using blood samples from the pregnant person and blood and/or cheek swab samples from the potential father. NIPP tests start at $900. Court-ordered documentation is available for a higher cost. This company offers payment plans that allow you to pay back the cost of testing. Results will be sent to you within 5 to 10 business days after your DNA samples are received at the lab.

EasyDNA Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity Test

The EasyDNA non-invasive prenatal paternity test can be performed as early as the 9th week of pregnancy. This test requires DNA samples from the pregnant parent (blood) and potential father (blood or cheek swab). This company claims they provide the most advanced testing by analyzing 2,688 genetic markers to provide paternity test results, which may explain the high fee of $1,295. For an additional fee of $175, your results will tell you if the baby is a boy or a girl. Results are available within 7 to 10 business days after the samples have been received at the lab. Express test results are available for a higher fee.

Ask for Recommendations and Check Reviews

If you require a court-ordered paternity test, it may be best to ask a lawyer, social worker, or your caseworker for a recommendation of a laboratory or facility that is local and provides the necessary court documentation.

If you opt for an at-home test purchased online or at the pharmacy, be sure you purchase a test kit from a reputable company. Take a moment to read online reviews and check the company's reputation and be sure to read all the fine print so you understand exactly what is being tested, what documentation they will provide, and when you can expect your results. Most reputable companies and laboratories have contact information listed on their websites, so you can call and/or email with any inquiries.

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Free & Low-Cost DNA Paternity Testing: Understand Your Choices