Genetic Paternity Testing

When Anna Nicole Smith gave birth to Dannielynn Hope, the model’s companion Howard K. Stern was listed as father on the birth certificate. Ms. Smith’s former boyfriend Larry Birkhead insisted that he was Dannielynn’s biological father, as did another former love interest, Prince Frederic Von Anhalt. Thus began a contentious and much publicized paternity lawsuit.

Ms. Smith’s tragic death four months later increased the media frenzy surrounding the paternity battle. Her death also increased the urgency of the situation. Instead of opening the door to child support and visitation rights, the man who won the court case would be the sole living parent of the little girl. The baby is also heir to millions, inherited from her mother’s late husband’s estate. DNA testing results revealed that Mr. Birkhead is Dannielynn’s father.

DNA testing — also referred to as genetic testing — has become the standard in paternity determinations. Without this important scientific advancement, the Smith case would likely have had a much different ending.

If you are ordered to undergo DNA testing in Florida, you should expect the following:

  • An administrative order or court order directs the petitioner, respondent and child to be tested.
  • A lab technician collects cheek cell samples from the child, the mother and the possible father using a cotton swab in a painless procedure.
  • The cell samples are shipped to a private laboratory, which the state contracts to conduct the testing.
  • The laboratory typically reaches results in about three weeks.
  • Paternity is either established or rejected.

The results are considered 99.9 percent accurate. Although home kits are available, Florida courts do not accept their results for purposes of establishing paternity.

Upon determining paternity, child visitation and child support are not automatic. The court orders these obligations and rights based upon petitions filed by either parent.

As the Smith case demonstrated, paternity imparts life-altering rewards and responsibilities. Retain representation from a family law attorney if you are involved in a paternity dispute in Tampa Bay.

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