How a Simple DNA Test Changed One Man's Idea of Fatherhood
Increasingly, men are turning to at-home DNA kits to prove - or disprove - paternity
There’s a strong moral obligation in this country that men take responsibility for their children and provide them with everything they need.
But 30% of men who question their paternal link to their assumed children are correct to doubt it.
Now, as a result of technological advances in DNA testing and the affordability of at-home tests - a kit from MyHeritage costs just $79 - the lingering uncertainty that some men feel towards their offspring can be answered with a simple swab of the cheek.
When a Swab of the Cheek Confirms Your Worst Fears
40% of births in the U.S. occur outside of marriage, which is how Tim Haverford’s unconventional family took shape. He had just broken up with his girlfriend and moved back home after finishing university when he received a call from his ex, Stephanie.
She was pregnant.
At first, Tim felt a pang of dread. He wasn’t ready to raise a child, didn’t have a job and was looking forward to the freedom that comes with the post-college years. But he had an obligation to this child and so instead of following through on plans to move to Seattle, he moved in with his ex and they raised their daughter together.
Tim in front of his home in Houston. By using a DNA test he found out his daughter was not his biological child.
And then his daughter turned 8 and the tiny resemblance he saw in her while she was growing up seemed to disappear altogether and a glaring thought kept finding its way back into his mind - is this really my daughter?
Stephanie insisted on his paternal link, but he had a nagging feeling he couldn’t get rid of.
So he and his daughter took a DNA test from MyHeritage and it confirmed Tim’s fears - he was not the biological father. When Tim received his results, he was crushed. He struggled over whether or not to tell his daughter, or anyone in fact.
“Just because our relationship started out as someone else’s lie, doesn’t mean the bond between us isn’t real,” Tim told himself.
Eventually Tim did tell his daughter. It was a revelation that Tim feared would upend his family, but he says his bond with his daughter is stronger than ever.
“I was in the hospital the day she was born. I jumped out of bed every time she let out the tiniest little whimper as a baby,” Tim said. “I might not be her biological father, but I’ve been there for her since the beginning, and I’ll continue to be there for her.”
Tim's daughter still thinks of him as her father, even though a DNA test proved otherwise
How a DNA Test Can Save Years of Heartache and Pain
What happened to Tim is playing out in courts and living rooms across the country.
A 2006 report published in Current Anthropology combed through dozens of genetic studies and found that 2% of men who were fairly confident in their paternal links - in most cases married men who had no reason to even question paternity - turned out to have no biological link to their children.
More recent studies indicate that number is even higher among non-married fathers.
Legal experts and child welfare researchers agree that a lot of pain, heartache and years of wrongly paid child support can all be spared if a DNA test is administered soon after the child is born.
The same diligence that is applied to ensuring the right infant is sent home from the hospital with the right birth mother should also be applied to ensuring the right man is determined to be the birth father.
And now, many state courts push for DNA tests to be conducted before any official claim to paternity is made.
“I’m so grateful to have my daughter in my life,” said Tim. “But if DNA kits were available eight years ago, my entire life would be different. It’s a heavy cross to bear.”