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BlogsLaw & Impact

17

Feb 2015

DNA tests where parentage is in dispute

Following a pilot scheme run during 2014, family court judges in England will be able to order DNA tests to determine a child’s parentage from September this year.

The public funding of DNA tests to determine parentage was removed as part of the reduction in Legal Aid funding in 2013.  The change lead to concerns about the welfare of children caught up in protracted disputes where parentage needed to be decided.

As a result of representations, the Ministry of Justice introduced the pilot scheme in order to fund DNA and other tests in private law children cases. The scheme involved a DNA test being undertaken if a Judge determined that DNA evidence was ‘necessary’ to resolve a case justly. Professionals felt the DNA evidence increased knowledge and awareness when determining the parentage in cases and therefore supported the principle that the child’s welfare should be the top consideration in family court cases.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes had this to say on the matter: '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 pilot scheme found that having the DNA tests available meant judges could be more confident in their decisions, and parents would be more likely follow the courts orders.

Contact for more information: Anne Francis