Following two successful pilot schemes in Bristol and Taunton, Justice Minister Simon Hughes has announced that all family court judges in England will be given the power, from September 2015, to order DNA tests to determine a child’s true parentage.

The pilot schemes were set up to establish whether, as anecdotal evidence suggests, disputed paternity causes delay in divorce cases. The results of the findings suggest parents are more likely to adhere to the terms of a court order following a DNA test and, further, family court judges can be more confident when making decisions about children once paternity has been established.

Mr 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 funding for DNA tests will come from the budget of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (also known as CAFCASS) and is expected to cost between £500,000 to £1 million.  Alongside this, CAFCASS are further investigating ways of funding the cost of alcohol and drug tests to establish the suitability of parents to look after their children as the results of the pilot schemes were inconclusive on this matter.

Shelley Cumbers, family law and divorce solicitor at Thompson Smith and Puxon, says: “The power given to family law judges to order DNA tests will come as welcome news to many parents, especially those who are denied contact with their children following separation or divorce due to disputed paternity and, further, in cases where absent parents refuse to pay child maintenance on the basis that they do not accept they are the parent of the child. This is the latest in a long line of family law reforms seen over recent months, including the introduction of the single Family Court in England and Wales and the requirement for anyone wanting to make a relevant family court application, to first attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting with an appropriately qualified mediator to find out about mediation and other non-court options.”

If you are unable to reach an agreement with your partner or former partner in relation to the arrangements for your children, including paternity issues covered above, then please contact Shelley Cumbers for advice on 01206 217078 or by email at shelley.cumbers@tsplegal.com. Shelley advises clients on all aspects of private family law and is able to offer a free half hour initial chat for prospective clients. She is a member of Resolution and a Collaborative lawyer. She is committed to resolving matters constructively and sensibly.