Family courts to get power to order DNA paternity tests
Family courts in England will soon be able to order DNA tests to establish a child’s parentage. It’s hoped the move will reduce delays and unnecessary arguments during divorce cases.
The move follows concern that courtroom disputes over parentage are slowing down proceedings and making it harder for couples to reach a fair settlement.
Two pilot schemes carried out in Taunton and Bristol indicated that DNA paternity testing gave judges more confidence when making decisions about children. Parents were also more likely to obey court orders if testing had been carried out.
The tests will be made available to family courts throughout England from September.
Justice Minister Simon Hughes said: “I am determined that all cases involving children should be resolved quickly and wherever possible outside court.
“However, when they do come to court they should be resolved in a civilised way so that children don’t suffer. Unambiguous and conclusive DNA tests will prove parentage and help to end acrimonious and embarrassing court battles.”
The introduction of DNA testing follows a number of recent reforms to the family justice system. These include:
• the introduction of the new Family Court in England and Wales with a simpler single system and a network of single application points making it easier for the public to use and understand
• new child arrangements orders which will encourage parents to focus on the child’s needs rather than what they see as their own ‘rights’
• compulsory family mediation information meetings so separating couples must consider alternatives to harmful and stressful court battles when they are resolving financial matters and arrangements for child contact
• a free mediation session for all couples where one of them is eligible for legal aid.
Please contact Paul Owen or Siobhan Thompson if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.