What are the Key Differences between a Legal Paternity Test and a Home Paternity Test?

When you have decided that you need a paternity test, it is a good idea to consider what you might use the test for prior to ordering. There are key differences between a court-approved or legal paternity test and a home paternity test in the UK. To help you identify which one is best for you, here is a simple guide highlighting the main differences.

Legal Paternity Test Results can be used in Court

 As a lab approved by the Ministry of Justice, we frequently encounter clients who have taken a home paternity test in the UK but who wish to use the result for a formal, legal purpose. The dilemma is that they cannot use a home test report for court and will quite often have to go to the expense of having to do another test. Her Majesty’s Court Service and the Home Office require that a court-approved test report be provided in any proceeding and will not accept a home paternity report. This is primarily because there is no evidence of who has actually been tested since DNA collection was not witnessed by an impartial third party. So if you anticipate needing results for court, choose a legal paternity test over a home paternity test.

Legal Paternity tests can be used in the following situations:

 Changing a birth certificate

DNA Sample Collections

 A significant difference between a legal paternity test and a home paternity test in the UK is the sample collection procedure itself and the identification— or lack thereof—of the individuals being tested. Here is how the sample-collection and overall testing processes work for each type of test.

For a home paternity test:

  1. You order a paternity test from a laboratory
  2. The kit is sent to your home and contains enough cheek swabs for a child, possible father, and mother. (Her participation is optional, but recommended.) You also receive a consent form that must be completed and returned with the samples
  3. Most reputable labs provide a prepaid envelope so that you can return the samples to them for testing
  4. Results are usually ready online in 3 business days

 For a court-approved paternity test:

  1. These cases should be set up directly with the ISO 17025 accredited lab that can arrange for and then guide you through the more complex aspects of providing ID and the third-party sample collections for legal paternity tests
  2. The lab identifies the location most convenient for you where an approved, impartial DNA collector supervises the collection and sample-submission processes.
  3. You provide the collector with photo ID or/and a passport photo at the sample-collection appointment. The collector confirms the identities of the people being tested
  4. The sample collector posts the samples back to the lab
  5. Once samples arrive at the lab for testing, the report is issued by email and post within 3 days

Costs of Paternity Testing

 Clearly, the prices for the two types of tests are going to be considerably different, with the legal test costing more. However, it is a false economy to do a home paternity test in the UK if you need a legal paternity test because you will end up having to undertake another test. For some people the home test is completely adequate for their needs, and still others want to establish the truth before going down the legal route. Some labs—like DNA Diagnostics Centre (DDC)—offer you a discount on a court-approved test if you have already done a personal test with us.


 It is really worth taking the time to consider all the ways you might use a paternity report before making a purchasing decision. If you are in dispute over the paternity of a child, just going down the more formal route may give you confidence that the samples were collected properly and that there was no impropriety with the samples being collected. If you are still unsure which is the best test for you, please ring our dedicated customer service team on 020 3301 7346.

If you need advice about the testing process or which test is most suitable for you, please phone one of our highly-experienced customer-service staff on 020 3301 7346.