DNA tests set to cut courtroom battles - Palmers Solicitors

DNA tests set to cut courtroom battles

Family courts in England and Wales will be able to order DNA testing in proceedings involving children from September this year.

The move, announced on 17 February, follows pilot schemes in Taunton and Bristol and is designed to address concerns that lack of expert evidence to establish parentage could cause delays in cases involving children and compromise their welfare.

Researchers who carried out the pilots reported: “The availability of DNA testing…was seen as essential in cases where questions are raised about parentage. Professionals told us it was very difficult to progress a case if doubts about parentage had not been satisfactorily resolved, and these cases would generally become more adversarial when fact-finding hearings were required.”

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.”

“However, until these changes come into effect in September 2015, both parties need to consent to the tests taking place. The changes will mean that if parentage is in dispute the matter can be swiftly resolved at the very outset of a case to enable the parties to focus on other issues.

“Significantly the government has provided a fund in order to pay for the DNA tests when ordered, and this will be managed by CAFCASS, the court appointed welfare service in children cases. It does not appear that the fund will be means tested at the outset, but of course if it becomes extremely popular that is a possibility for the future.

“It will be interesting to see how this develops. Alcohol and drug testing can also often be an issue in cases involving children but the pilot was inconclusive about the benefits of such testing and CAFCASS is undertaking a further review and assessment before reporting back on its findings in 2016.

“For more information or advice on this issue, please contact our Family Law team.”