A few years ago, a paternity and child support case in Missouri presented a very interesting question regarding the determination of paternity: What happens when both putative fathers named in a paternity action are identical twins? In this Missouri case, twin brothers Raymon and Richard Miller both unknowingly engaged in a sexual relationship with the same woman. Subsequently, the woman both brothers were seeing, Holly Marie Adams, became pregnant. Although Holly named Raymon as the putative father for the purposes of determining paternity and establishing child support, Raymon objected and demanded a paternity test. However, in this case, a paternity test proved unhelpful for two reasons: 1) because Raymon and Richard are twins and share the same DNA, a paternity test revealed both brothers have over a 99.9% probability of being the father of Holly’s child, and 2) during the court proceeding, Holly testified that she had sex with both brothers, within hours of each other, near the date of conception.
Although the judge assigned to the case, Judge Fred Copeland, was not able to rely on the result of genetic testing to determine paternity and child support in this case, Judge Copeland ruled that regardless of the identical DNA test and the overlapping relationships, Raymon would be named the legal father of the child in question. In support of his decision, Judge Copeland noted that a court is not limited to relying solely on the results of a DNA test to determine paternity. Raymon appealed Judge Copeland’s decision, arguing that he should not be named the legal father, because the identical DNA results make it impossible to determine which brother is truly the biological father of the child in question. On appeal, the Appellate Court upheld Judge Copeland’s decision, which was based on the testimonial evidence presented at the hearing. Specifically, Judge Copeland relied on the testimony of Holly Adams, who testified that she believed the date of conception can be traced back to a night spent with Raymon.
Genetic or DNA testing is a very useful tool used by courts to determine paternity in cases where paternity is contested. But, as shown in this Missouri case, DNA testing cannot always be relied on to resolve paternity disputes. When the results of a DNA test are not reliable or definitive, paternity can still be established. In such a situation, a presiding court must simply rely on the tools and methods used to establish paternity before DNA testing was widely available, such as witness testimony and calculations regarding the date of conception.