The following is a special Glossary of DNA Paternity Testing Terms.


Absent Parent: Non custodial parent.

Accrual: The sum of child support payments that are due or overdue.

Acknowledgment of Parentage/Paternity: An acknowledgement by a man, or both parents, that the man is the father of a child, usually provided in writing on an affidavit or form.

Adjudication: The entry of a judgment, decree, or order by a judge or other decision-maker such as a master, referee, or hearing officer based on the evidence submitted by the parties.

Administrative Process: A statutory system granting authority to an executive agency (instead of courts or judges) to determine child support obligations, including paternity establishment, order establishment, enforcement, and modifications.

Admissible; Admissibility: Any testimony, document, or demonstrative material that is officially considered by the court, i.e., allowed into evidence, generally in compliance with the rules of evidence.

AFDC "Aid to Families with Dependant Children": Our national welfare system for children in need of support. It has been replaced with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant program.

Affidavit: A written statement voluntarily signed under oath, usually in support of a motion.

Affidavit of Denial of Paternity: Sworn statement signed by a child’s mother and her husband at the time of her child’s birth or conception saying the husband is not the father of the child.

Affidavit of Indigency: A sworn statement that you sign that says you cannot afford to pay court fees.

Alleged Father (AF); Putative Father (PT) A man who is contesting an accusation of paternity or wishes to establish it when a question of paternity exists.

Allele: Alternate forms of the same gene. When a genetic locus is polymorphic, there are alleles for that gene. Example are A, B, and O of the ABO blood gene.

Antigen: Genetic product (protein) that is detected by immunological techniques (using antibodies).

Arrearages: The deficiency between the amount, if any, paid and the amount required under court order. If payments are made voluntarily on a de facto basis, i.e., not under court order, any reduction in the amount of such payments is not considered an arrearage.

Assignment of Support Rights: As a condition of eligibility for public assistance (TANF), the custodial parent must agree to turn over to the State any right to child support.

Attorney for the Child(ren): A court-appointed attorney who represents the stated wishes of the child(ren). Unlike a guardian ad litem who acts in the child’s best interest by substituting her own judgment for the child’s, the attorney for the child(ren) must promote those causes espoused by the child(ren) and generally not substitute her own judgment.

Autoradiogram, Autoradiograph (Autorad): The visual recording on x-ray film that displays polymorphic DNA fragments present in the mother, child, and alleged father.

Band: The visual image on an autoradiograph that represents a particular DNA fragment.

Bases: (In DNA) Four building blocks of nucleic acids. They are Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G), and Cytosine (C). They are complementary in that the only stable base pairs are AT/TA and GC/CG. The length of DNA fragments is measured in base pairs (bp).

Bayes’ Theorem (as applicable to parentage testing): A statistical procedure to assess the relative probability of two alternative possibilities based on acquired information.

W = (CPI) (Pr)
(CPI) (Pr) + (1 – Pr)
W = Probability of Paternity
CPI = Combined Paternity Index
Pr = Prior Probability

Best Interest of the Child: The legal standard or doctrine for making child-related decisions.

Biological Father: The man who provided the paternal genetic material of a child.

Burden of Proof: The party asserting a claim must prove such claim is true. In paternity cases, the burden in most states requires that paternity be established by a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning that paternity (or lack of paternity) is "more likely than not." We call this the 50.01% test, meaning that if evidence is even slightly greater than 50-50, it constitutes a "preponderance of evidence." Some states insist on a higher standard, known as the "clear and convincing evidence" test. This test is more stringent (harder to overcome) than the "preponderance" test, but not as strict as the "beyond a reasonable doubt" test, the standard in criminal cases. Many states have thresholds of 95% or more percent in order to create a presumption of paternity.

Capias: A civil arrest warrant ordering the sheriff or other officer to take a person into custody and deliver him to court. This procedure is used when a party refuses to appear in court.

Child Support: Court-ordered payments from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent that are not tax deductible by the non-custodial parent, nor includable in the custodial parent’s taxable income.

Child–Guidelines: State guidelines requiring the non-custodial parent, under normal circumstances, to pay child support based on a percentage of income.

Child Support Recovery Act (1992): Makes it a federal crime to fail to pay child support for a child living in another state.

Chromosome: A thread like structure found in the nucleus of the cell that carries genetic information arranged in a linear sequence. It consists of a complex of nucleic acids and proteins. At certain times during cell life chromosomes appear as distinct units. In humans there are 46 in the nucleus of every nucleated cell arranged in 23 pairs.

Codominant: Two alleles that are both seen in one individual. Example: AB blood type (see dominant and recessive).

COLA: Cost of living adjustment.

Combined Paternity Index (CPI): The product of the individual PI values calculated for each independent test. The CPI is the ratio based on the testing of the probability that the alleged father is the biological father (x) to the probability that a random man is the biological father (y). This value is calculated when the alleged father can not be excluded on a minimum of 2 tests.

Complainant: Also known as "plaintiff," the person bringing the complaint.

Complaint for Support/Custody/Visitation: Legal action brought to establish support, custody and/or visitation.

Complaint to Establish Parentage: A formal written document filed in court whereby the person initiating the action provides the names the parties involved, the allegations, and the request for relief sought; the initial pleading, sometimes called the petition.

Consent Agreement: A voluntary written admission of paternity or responsibility for support.

Contempt of Court, Complaint for: Legal action brought when the plaintiff/petitioner alleges a willful failure to obey a court order or judgment.

Custodial Parent: Usually refers to the parent with whom the child(ren) reside(s), i.e., the parent with Physical Custody or Primary Physical Custody.

Custody–Legal: A legal status or "custodianship" vesting authority to approve all major decisions affecting a minor child. "Joint," "split," and "shared" legal custody require both parents’ approval of all major decisions.

Custody–Physical: Relates to the physical location of the child. The adult with whom the child resides is said to have physical custody. Such terms as "sole," "primary," "shared," and "joint" are used to describe various parenting and visitation plans.

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid): The molecule that encodes genetic information. DNA is a double-stranded helix held together by weak bonds between base pairs of nucleotides. DNA is a genetic material that is routinely tested in parentage evaluations.

Default Judgement: A decision made by the court or administrative authority when the defendant fails to respond or appear, i.e., defaults.

Diploid: Containing a complete set (one from each parent) of homologous (similar) chromosomes.

Direct Exclusion: When a characteristic is found in the child that is not in the child’s mother, it must have come from the biological father. If an alleged father does not have the factor, he is excluded for that system. If an alleged father is excluded on two independent tests, he is excluded as the biological father of the child.

Discovery; Pretrial Discovery: Discovery is the formal procedure for gathering information pursuant to rules of court.

Dominant: When on allele’s expression in an individual masks the expression of another allele in that individual. Example: people with type A blood can either have two A alleles or one A allele and one O allele. The O allele will not be seen due to the presence of the dominant A allele (see recessive and codominant).

Double Helix: The structure of DNA. Two strands of DNA coiled around each other forming a spiral staircase like structure.

Electrophoresis: The method by which biological molecules are separated according to certain characteristics. In DNA parentage testing the negatively charged DNA fragments are cut and separated by size in a porous material such as agarose, by application of an electric field.

Emancipation: In divorce court, "emancipation" does not necessarily mean "legal majority," i.e., 18 years old. Depending on the state and the educational status of the child, emancipation may occur between ages 18 and 23.

Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS): A computerized national location network operated by the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement to help the States locate parents in order to obtain child support payments. FPLS obtains address and employer information from Federal agencies and the National Directory of New Hires.

Full Faith and Credit: A constitutional doctrine under which a State must honor an order or judgment entered in another State.

Garnishment; Wage Assignment; Wage Attachment: A court order to a third party, usually an employer, requiring the employee’s wages to be attached (automatically deducted from a paycheck) and assigned (paid) to another party, usually the mother.

Gene: The fundamental unit of heredity; an ordered sequence of nucleotide base pairs to which a specific product or function can be assigned. Many genes have alternate forms referred to as alleles (see allele).

Genotype: The actual alleles present at a given gene locus. Example: individuals who have type AB blood have the genotype AB, a person who has type A blood could have the Genotype AA or AO.

Genetic Marker: An inherited (genetic) characteristic that can be recognized in a tested individual and is used in differentiating genetically related individuals from nonrelated individuals.

Guardian ad Litem (GAL): A court-appointed individual who, for the purpose of pending litigation, puts himself in the shoes of a legally incompetent person such as a minor child. He also investigates the matter and files a report with the court.

Guidelines (Child Support): A standard method for calculating child support obligations based on the income of the parent(s) and other factors as determined by State law.

Haploid: Containing only 1 of each pair of the 46 chromosomes (seen in eggs and sperm).

Hardy-Weinberg Law: The mathematical expression of the equilibrium of allelic genetic markers within the population. A mathematical model that allows for the prediction of occurrence of genetic markers in a population and states that in a large random intra-breeding population, not subjective to excessive selection or mutation, the gene and genotype frequency will remain constant over time.

(p + q)2 = P2 + 2 pq + q2 = 1 p and q represent the frequency of two allelic genes in a two allele system.

p2 and q2 represent the frequencies of homozygotes.

2pq represents the frequency of heterozygotes.

In a multiple allelic system: (p + q + r + s)2 = 1

r and s represent additional alleles in a multiple allele system.

Heterozygote (heterozygous): Individual who has two different forms (alleles) of a specific gene. Example: people with the AB blood type have two alleles (A and B) for the blood type gene.

Homologous: In chromosomes, a pair of chromosomes that contain the same gene (although perhaps different alleles). There are 23 pairs of homologous chromosomes in humans; one of each was contributed by each parent.

Homozygote (homozygous): Individual who has identical forms (alleles) of a given gene. Example: people with the O blood type have two O alleles of the blood type gene.

Indirect Exclusion: A presumed exclusion based on the observation that the child and AF are homozygous for different alleles. It is possible that the child and AF actually share a null gene that is not detected. An indirect exclusion is not considered 100% conclusive, and usually before an opinion of nonpaternity can be rendered, a search is made for a second direct or indirect exclusion.

Infant: A person who has not reached legal majority, usually 18 years of age. Also, referred to as a "minor," or unemancipated child.

Judgment: The official decision or finding of a judge or administrative agency hearing officer upon the respective rights and claims of the parties to an action; also known as a decree or order and may include the "findings of fact and conclusions of law."

Judgment, Divorce: A determination by a court that a marriage has legally ended.

Kilobase: One thousand base pairs of DNA. Often abbreviated as kb.

Long Arm Statute: A law which permits one State to claim jurisdiction over nonresident parties. There must be some meaningful connection between the person and the State in which the jurisdiction is exercised in order for it to be constitutional to reach beyond the court’s normal jurisdictional border.

Mean Probability of Exclusion: The probability that a single genetic system will exclude a nonfather from paternity prior to testing, i.e., independent of the blood types of the trio tested.

Mediation: An informal, voluntary process allowing parties to work with a neutral third party (the "mediator") to develop a parenting and support agreement.

Motion: A written request asking or "moving" the court to grant a temporary order, or rule on a legal matter.

Mutation: Any change in the sequence of genomic DNA.

Non-Custodial Parent (NCP): A legal/natural parent who resides outside the home and does not have primary custody of a dependent.

Notary Public: A person appointed by the Governor to make sure certain documents are signed freely and by the person indicated.

Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE): The Federal agency within the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for the administration of the child support program.

Parens patriease: The right of the state to take charge of the care and custody of minor children or other legal incompetents when their health or safety so requires.

Parentage Judgment: The decision of the court regarding the parentage of a child.

Paternity Index (Likelihood Ratio): For an individual genetic system it is the ratio between the chance that the alleged father may pass the paternal gene compared to the chance that a random man may pass the paternal gene to the child. It is sometimes referred to as the genetic odds in favor of paternity, given the genetic findings in the mother-child-alleged father.

Phenotype: The measurable genetic markers in a given individual at a specific locus. It may or may not reflect the actual alleles present (see genotype). Example: a person with type A blood is said to have the A phenotype but could have the AO genotype.

Polymorphism: The existence of more than one form of a genetic trait.

Population Database: A random sampling of alleles for a given probe/racial group combination used to determine the frequency of an allele in the population.

Population Genetics: A discipline that examines the character and extent of inherited differences within and between populations.

Power of Exclusion (A): The ability of a genetic test to exclude a falsely accused man of paternity and is dependent upon the phenotypes of the mother and child and the ethnic background of the alleged father.

A = (1 – p) 2 where p = the frequency of the paternal allele in the child.

Presumption of Paternity: This is a legal assumption that a particular person is the child’s father. This will be binding unless proven otherwise.

Prior Probability (Pr): An assigned numerical value of from 0 – 1 (ranging from impossible to certain) of the non-genetic evidence used in evaluating paternity. It is estimated on the basis of the circumstances surrounding the event, e.g. casual acquaintance versus an intimate relationship. A prior probability of 0.5 is considered neutral and is an equal weighting of the nongenetic evidence for and against paternity.

Private case: Any child-related litigation to which the state is not a party.

Pro Se; Pro Se Appearance: When a party handles her own case, i.e., represents herself, she is said to appear "pro se."

Probability of Paternity (W): A statistical means of describing the likelihood that the alleged father is the biological father of the child. This value incorporates the genetic (Paternity Index) and nongenetic (Prior Probability) information.

Probe: Short segment of DNA that is tagged with a radioactive or chemical tracer and is then used to detect the presence of a particular DNA sequence through hybridization to its complementary sequence.

Random Man: A theoretical man of unknown genetic comparison from a population with the same racial background as the alleged father.

Random Man Not Excluded (RMNE): The frequency with which men selected at random from the same racial group as the alleged father and tested to the same extent as the alleged father would not be excluded as the biological father of the child.

Recessive: A trait that is partially or completely masked by the effect of a dominant allele. The dominant A or B allele masks the presence of the recessive O allele.

Red Cell Antigens: Genetic markers found on the surface of red cells, e.g. ABO, Rh, MNSs.

Restriction Enzyme: A bacterial enzyme which recognizes a specific set of bases and the DNA at that specific site.

Restriction Fragment: A piece of DNA identified by a specific restriction enzyme.

Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP): Variations in the size of DNA fragments produced by a restriction endonuclease at a polymorphic locus.

Service by Publication: Notice in a newspaper telling someone that a claim has been filed against him/her.

Service of Process: The delivery of a writ or summons to the party to whom it is directed for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction over that party.

Single Locus Probe: A DNA probe that detects a single DNA region creating one ("homozygote") to two (heterozygote) bands on an autoradiograph.

Support Order: A legally binding edict from a court of law that dictates conditions of support that a noncustodial parent must pay.

Testimony: Statements made by a witness under oath.

Variable Number of Tandem Repeats (VNRT): DNA locations that are comprised of short (i.e. 10-70 base pairs) repeats arranged in tandem. The length of the location will depend on the number of times the sequence is repeated. The number of repeats will vary among nonrelated individuals.

Visitation; Supervised Visitation: Pursuant to stipulation, agreement, or court order, visits of unemancipated children with their non-custodial parent. Visits are supervised by a responsible adult when the non-custodial parent is accused of child abuse or neglect.

Visitation, Grandparent: Grandparents have visitation rights in all 50 states. These rights generally do not cover non-biological descendants, i.e., adopted grandchildren or biological grandchildren given up for adoption.

Voluntary Acknowledgment of Parentage: A statement signed by the father (and usually the mother) that they are indeed the biological parents.

Wage withholding: A procedure by which automatic deductions are made from wages or income to pay a debt such as child support.