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Maryland firm's technology could affect child custody cases

New blood tests are now available that can determine the paternity of an unborn child as early as the eighth or ninth week of pregnancy, without putting the unborn child in danger in any way. Ravgen, a Columbia, Maryland, company has been offering such a test for a little while and charges between $950 and $1,650 for it.

This test cannot yet be used in child custody cases because it has not yet received a certificate of accuracy, but certification appears likely in the near future. If approved, it would allow for some of the major decisions surrounding child custody, including whether joint custody or sole custody should be awarded, to be made long before the child is born.

Unlike other tests, this one only involves a draw of blood from the pregnant woman and the potential father or fathers. In addition to determining child paternity, the test can also be used to determine other important genetic information, such as the presence of Down's syndrome or the gender of the unborn child.

Because the test can be used early in a pregnancy and without potential miscarriage risks, the test may become popular for men, women and the unborn baby. For women, the test may help them pursue reimbursement of some of the costs of their pregnancy from father. To date, this has not been possible.

The test would enable men to know early on in the pregnancy whether or not they are the father, perhaps opening up opportunities to support the mother through the term. That is stark contrast from how things work at the moment. Current law makes costs associated with pregnancy the woman's issue alone.

For the unborn child, the test would mean his or her father would be more invested in the pregnancy, which according to some studies, could reduce infant mortality.

Source: The New York Times, Before Birth, Dad's ID, Andrew Pollack, June 19, 2012

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