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Should You Purchase a Legal or Non-Legal DNA test? Three Key Differences to Know

Paternity Court and Maury are award-winning programs for a reason. Paternity and other DNA matters are common and often cause confusion and pain when there is doubt, but they can grant joy and fulfillment when the answers are finally revealed.

Although DNA testing is common, most people prefer discreet and confidential testing that provides peace of mind and legal proof when questions arise. At-home kits and testing from a non-accredited lab may seem like ideal choices, but are they valid and legal? Let’s discuss the key differences in legal and non-legal DNA testing that ARCpoint Labs provides and how you can find answers and solutions for your concerns.

Legal steps for DNA testing

Scheduling and getting results for a legal DNA test is easy. Simply call your local ARCpoint Labs to schedule an appointment, and our friendly professionals will collect tissue samples and test them to determine relational status. We will follow the chain of custody, and your results will be delivered in a few days.

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Differences between legal and non-legal DNA tests

Questions of paternity or other relational status occur every day. DNA testing provides answers which can be used for legal purposes or peace of mind. Knowing the differences between the two is crucial in determining which one you should purchase. Here are three key differences between legal and non-legal DNA tests.

1. Legal DNA tests are court admissible.

The United States government, particularly the U.S. court system, does not accept just any document as legal proof of DNA, paternity, or ancestry. They only accept DNA test results from testing that occurs in a courtroom, an attorney’s office, or at a certified lab that specializes in medical testing. Often, the court will request birth certificates and other legal documents as part of the process. Once the results of the court admissible DNA tests are submitted as evidence along with other documents and testimony, the court makes a final ruling. Non-legal DNA tests--such as at-home DNA kits--are not court admissible.

2. Legal DNA tests follow a regulated chain of custody.

For a DNA test to be considered legal, there must be a chain of custody that is followed during the administration, collection, and submission of the results. The chain of custody begins with the identification of all parties and collection of all specimens, and it ends with legal documentation of the DNA test results. A chain of custody helps the court verify the tested individuals’ identity and kinship and how the DNA samples were handled throughout the testing process. Without a chain of custody, the courts won’t accept the DNA test results. It’s considered a non-legal DNA test.

3. Legal DNA test results are legal documents that can be used for a variety of judicial purposes.

Although non-legal DNA testing can be used for just about anything, the most common legal DNA testing requested is DNA paternity testing. DNA paternity tests can be used to sue a parent for child support or to request a new birth certificate. Other legal DNA tests can be used to:

  • verify citizenship or apply for dual citizenship (as in immigration cases)
  • clear up kinship disputes that affect social security, property inheritance, and life insurance benefits
  • establish just cause in divorce and infidelity proceedings

How does legal DNA testing work?

When you decide to move forward with DNA testing, you should consult a lawyer or certified professionals who specialize in medical testing to ensure a chain of custody that makes your DNA test results court admissible and legal in all 50 states. Non-legal paternity tests and other non-legal DNA testing will not benefit you in child support or custody hearings and the like.

Legal DNA testing is performed by collecting tissue samples (buccal cells) from inside the cheeks of the father and child that are sent to a DNA testing lab for examination and verification. ARCpoint Labs can even provide DNA testing for people other than the father (aunts, grandparents, etc) or prenatal paternity testing for mothers who are at least nine weeks pregnant.

Which type of DNA testing do you need?

The type of DNA test you need depends on your plans for the results. If you are strictly looking for information, you may not need a legal DNA test, but if you believe that there is the slightest possibility of needing the results in legal proceedings, you should opt for a legal DNA test.

A rule of thumb is to always be prepared for the unexpected, so purchasing a legal DNA test is good to have in case the results are ever needed in court.

Whether you decide to purchase a legal DNA test for your next court hearing or are just curious about your ancestry and relations, ARCpoint Labs is here to provide accurate, reliable, and confidential DNA testing. Our DNA testing results are over 99% accurate, and with over 100 nationwide locations and 20 years of experience, we’ll provide the answers you seek and the solutions you need. Trust ARCpoint Labs for all your DNA testing. Call today to schedule an appointment!


Is there a difference between DNA and paternity tests?

DNA testing is performed to analyze the DNA banding patterns of a person to determine identity. Paternity testing is one of many types of DNA testing performed to verify paternity or ascertain the nature of an alleged relationship.

What is a non-legal paternity test?

Non-legal paternity tests are solely used for informational purposes and do not follow the chain of custody, which makes them invalid for use in court. They can be purchased just about anywhere, but it is always best to trust an accredited lab with many years of experience.

Can you test DNA without consent?

A DNA (buccal) sample should not be collected from an individual without the individual’s consent. The exceptions are court judicial orders or authorized search warrants that comply with all state and federal laws.

How much is a legal DNA test?

Legal DNA tests generally cost more than non-legal DNA tests because they are verifiable tests conducted by a licensed third party. They can range from $300 -$500, and they can save you time, energy, and additional costs if the results are later needed in court proceedings.

How long does a DNA test take?

DNA testing collection only takes a few minutes in a certified medical testing lab, and the results are usually available within 3-5 business days.