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Judges will have power to order paternity tests

Anecdotal evidence suggests that lengthy and acrimonious courtroom battles had resulted from arguments around paternity after the cuts were made. These disputes can be resolved conclusively with a DNA test, but many couples could not afford them. Pilot studies in Bristol and Taunton proved helpful, since judges could be more clear and confident in their decisions about what happens to children when a relationship breakdown occurs – and parents would be more likely to follow the court’s orders if it was backed up with this evidence.There are two major categories of case in which such tests will help. One is when men claim that they are not the father of a child in order to avoid paying maintenance costs. The other is cases in which a mother claims that a man has no legal right to spend time with a child because they are not the biological father. DNA tests establish paternity and therefore the direction the court will generally take in either case.The ideal is still that parents should establish paternity before a case reaches court. Jane Robey of the charity National Family Mediation commented that the decision was “puzzling” for this reason, though many parents do not do so – either for reasons of expense, because they do not know how to go about it, or because they do not want to. “It makes no sense to wait until a case reaches court – at the very end of a long and costly process – when it is possible to establish paternity or drug and alcohol use, much, much sooner.”
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