In today’s complex relationship landscape, paternity tests have become an important part of the legal process for many current and former couples that are expecting a child. More than half of all births to women under 30-years-old are now outside of a marriage, which means that there is no assumption of paternity as there would be if the couple was married. As a result, many more people are choosing paternity testing as a way to establish legal parenthood.

New testing methods are making it easier and less invasive to determine paternity early in the pregnancy. This can be especially helpful for financial planning or for a couple that is working out child custody or support arrangements for other children they have together.

Previously, to determine paternity during a pregnancy the woman would have to undergo an invasive procedure that carried a small risk of inducing a miscarriage. These tests are not very common for that reason and most people choose to wait until the baby is born. The new tests are done with blood samples and doctors don’t need to conduct them, so they’re easier and less costly than ever before.

Still, the pre-birth tests are more expensive than post birth paternity testing, ranging from about $950 to $1,775. Post birth tests are around $500. Cost is only one of many considerations for expectant parents seeking to establish certain paternity. Some studies have also suggested that emotional and financial support by the father during the pregnancy is related to healthier babies.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, “New Paternity tests work early in pregnancy,” Andrew Pollack, June 19, 2012.