Anita Shepherd – head of the Family department – on family court judges being given the power to order DNA tests.

The availability of this power can only be a positive thing for the children involved. It is common for parents to have disputes over paternity and then for one of the parents to delay or frustrate proceedings by not cooperating with the paternity testing. This could either be the father not giving the required sample to be tested or the mother not making the child available for a sample to be taken. The situation can be further compounded when parents realise that the court cannot order them to undergo DNA testing.

Giving judges the necessary power will hopefully alter the perceptions of parents and also send a clear and consistent message from the outset that the court will not tolerate parents who delay or frustrate proceedings concerning children. Making funding available for the testing will also reduce potential disputes such as when a parent claims they want to be tested but can’t afford the test fees which can run to hundreds of pounds.

It is not clear at present how the courts will enforce the power if a parent steadfastly refuses to cooperate with the DNA testing. However, this development is certainly a step in the right direction and can only add to the confidence that is growing in this area for judges, practitioners and parents alike.

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