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Father sentenced to 18 months in prison for faking results of paternity test22nd September 2020 Family Law
The Court has once again shown how seriously it will take attempts to falsify evidence after a father was sentenced to 18 months in prison for faking the results of a DNA test in an effort to evade a CMS maintenance liability for his children. This is not the first time the courts have imposed a prison sentence on a parent for the falsification of evidence in proceedings regarding children, and is a reminder to all litigations that there can be serious consequences if false evidence is presented to the court.
According to reports, the CMS had first contacted the father, Steven Dixon, after two women approached the CMS for help securing child maintenance payments. In disputing paternity to avoid the claims, Dixon apparently used DNA from a friend to secure a false “negative” result. He then submitted the sample to the CMS with a form stating that the DNA sample had been taken by a doctor. It later transpired that the doctor did not work at the practice in question and denied signing the form. The truth was uncovered after the CMS investigated further after the women disputed the accuracy of the results, and after further testing showed the 2 children in respect of whom maintenance were sought were half-siblings, with the same father. Dixon was apparently traced after the national database was searched. He pleaded guilty at Chester Crown Court on 15 September 2020.
Whilst the case acts as a reminder as to the seriousness with which the falsification of evidence will be viewed, it is also a reminder as to the efforts some paying parents will go to, to avoid maintenance obligations. Although the CMS were able to secure a positive result in this case, it is still subject to huge criticism for failing to enforce unpaid maintenance assessments, with huge arrears continuing to build. It is envisaged the problem will increase amid the economic turmoil caused by COVID, as many parents seek re-assessment after seeing their income drastically reduced and dispute their liability based on old assessments. There is concern that an already over-stretched system will not be able to cope with the increased demand, especially following news that DWP employees have been redeployed to cover other departments. Sadly, it is anticipated there will be some parents who seek to exploit the chaos to avoid payment.
The news that problems with enforcement may worsen will come as a great concern to the families for whom maintenance is vital in making ends meet. Whilst the conviction of Mr Dixon is a positive indication of what the CMS can do, it will not stop criticism of the CMS’ approach to enforcement and calls for change.