Paternity Tests – Not Just For Daytime TV Presenters

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Thought of as just the reserve for daytime TV, DNA tests determining parentage will be funded from September in England and Wales to help end hostile family disputes.

DNA Test

DNA to Settle Disputes

Long, acrimonious court cases over parentage disputes during family cases will soon be settled by DNA testing paid for by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). They became less available due to government cuts to legal aid in 2013 but Justice Minister Simon Hughes hopes that reintroducing them will save the courts both time and money.

Successful pilots in Bristol and Taunton have showed judges were able to get on with making confident decisions and parents were more likely to follow them after a DNA test was completed.

With these tests, the government hopes to stop paying parents from dodging their obligations, and to help those who cannot access their children due to doubts with paternity to get straight answers. Currently, until a DNA test proves otherwise, if a mother names a father, even if paternity is disputed, he has to pay child maintenance.

Currently cases where a father is applying to see their child and parentage is disputed, with neither parent able to afford a DNA test, the case becomes long and drawn out. The judge will then have to listen to anecdotal evidence from both sides. This is often neither helpful to the judge or the parents and children involved, and it can turn nasty very quickly.

More Changes to Come

The introduction of the tests means a bill of between £500,000 and £1m per year for this court based solution. Jane Robey, Chief Executive of the National Family Mediation charity thinks that providing the service at this point of the scenario "makes no sense".

She argues that paternity could be established much sooner before the issue even reaches court. The process has most likely already been long and costly up to this point and ill feelings will be reaching their peak.

The Justice Minister also suggested that children from the age of 10 should be involved in separation classes after consulting with an advisory group. This is so their voice can be heard, something that we at Simpson Millar LLP have been writing about for a while.

Often, what children want and their feelings can be overshadowed by the dispute between the parents and what goes on in the courtroom. This can lead to ill feelings and resentment for the child, if they feel decisions are made on their behalf without considering them.

These are just the latest attempts at overhauling the Family Law system, but we hope that whatever changes are made, children stay at the heart of the system - not the parental disputes.


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