From September 2015 all family court judges in England will be able to order DNA tests to determine a child’s parentage. This follows two pilot schemes in Taunton and Bristol which were set up following anecdotal evidence that courtroom arguments led to delays in divorce cases, particularly where parentage was in question.
Debbie Richards, a partner in Hutchinson Thomas said, “The aim behind this initiative is that all cases involving children should be resolved quickly and wherever possible outside court”.
Findings from the pilots suggest the tests mean judges can be more confident when making decisions about children and, most importantly, parents would be more likely to follow the court’s orders.
The funding for DNA testing in private family law cases follows the introduction last year of a series of reforms designed to place children at the heart of every case and government agencies have reported that this has resulted in a cut to 29 weeks the time which care cases are taking.
The reforms have included:
• the introduction of the new Family Court in England and Wales with a simpler single system and a network of single application points
• New child arrangements orders which are designed to 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
Debbie Richards, comments “It is hoped that the recent reforms, together with the new rules on DNA testing, will help to end acrimonious and embarrassing court battles.”.
If you would like assistance on a family matter call Debbie Richards at Hutchinson Thomas on 01639 640156 for further information.