Family law courts in England and Wales are not discriminating against fathers, according to a new study by the University of Warwick and Reading.

There is no evidence that the courts are discriminating due to gender bias according to the research that was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Dr Maebh Harding, from the Warwick School of Law concluded that contact applications by fathers were “overwhelmingly successful” after reviewing 200 case files spanning 2011.

Her report was co-authored with Dr Annika Newnham from the University of Reading, giving a generally positive overview of the role of the County Courts in resolving child law disputes at the time of the study. However, it does raise a few questions such as whether the issue of fairness between the adults is being favoured, rather than obtaining the best arrangements in the interests of the children.

Legal Aid for Family Law Cases

Other questions included the impact of recent cuts to legal aid, which the authors say will greatly reduce approachable options for many parents. Dr Harding said: “Whilst it’s true that mothers were usually the primary care giver in contact applications, this was simply a reflection of the social reality that women are more likely to take on the role after a relationship breakdown.

“But there was actually no indication of any bias towards mothers over fathers by the courts; in fact we established there was a similar success rate for mothers and fathers applying for orders to have their children live with them.

“And although the overall number of residence orders made for mothers was higher than those for fathers, this was because a large number of such orders were made for mothers as a respondents in cases where the father sought contact.”

She added: “Transfers of sole residence were rare as a the courts sought to preserve the status quo and where they were ordered they were disproportionately likely to be transfers from mum to dad and to feature welfare concerns and children’s services involvement.”

The study concluded that family law courts were only being used by parents as a last resort in child contact cases and the vast majority were resolved without the need for a contested final hearing. Although it may seem inevitable, in most cases proceedings do not result in any amplified or entrenched conflict between the parties involved.

Dr Harding suggests that legal aid cuts are threatening the public’s access to the system explaining: “Going to court with legal advice to resolve disputes between parents about their children is now out of the financial reach of most parents, although funding is still available for mediated resolution.

We have concerns that the wholesale diversion of these cases from court through cuts to legal aid will mean that parents will agree to unsafe arrangements where risk factors are not appropriately managed or will be unable to reach agreement about having contact with their children.”

Free DNA Tests for Eligible Families

As Dr Harding mentioned there will still be options for a lot of families that need legal aid for such cases, but without taking the cases to family law courts.

In February this year, the government announced that £500,000 – £1m a year will be used to pay for DNA tests for eligible parents seeking funding for family mediation from September.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes voiced his support for its introduction when he 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.”

He added: “Unambiguous and conclusive DNA tests will prove parentage and help to end acrimonious and embarrassing court battles.”

Another area where funding may also be helpful is in assisting in cases where parents try to avoid providing DNA test samples in an attempt to stray from paying child support by claiming not to be a biological parent without providing any admissible proof. It could also challenge an alleged parent’s right of contact if it is found they are not the child’s biological parent through DNA testing.

The information outlined in this article would indicate that it will still be possible in many cases for eligible parents to take a free DNA test (or free DNA paternity testing for example) in the interest of resolution. However, it would seem less likely nowadays for legal aid to be provided for legal DNA testing in family law courts.

Legal DNA Testing

Although there has been a reduction in aid for legal DNA testing and free DNA tests are not available on the NHS this does not mean to say that there are not suitable solutions available. AlphaBiolabs provide a number of ways to help everyone make significant savings in legal DNA testing.

These include free Walk-in Centres, where free sample collection is provided without the need for an appointment (available at various locations, subject to opening days and times).

We also have a guaranteed price match promise, where we will match any like-for-like service quotes for solicitors and beat it by 5%.

Furthermore if you review our services you may be eligible for £5 cash back on your DNA testing testing (subject to terms and conditions).

Our legal DNA testing provides court approved results accepted by:

  • Family Law Courts
  • The Ministry of Justice
  • The Child Support Agency

If you require legal DNA testing, then contact our friendly customer service team on 0333 600 1300 or info@alphabiolabs to start saving now.