Call for evidence on family court issues

call for evidence, Ministry of Justice, family courts, rights of children, domestic abuse, “We will be engaging with victims across the country to make sure we are doing all we can to protect them further”.

Survivors of domestic abuse and other harmful conduct are being invited to share their experiences of how well the family courts protects them and their children in private family law proceedings.

A government call for evidence has been launched as part of a three-month project, overseen by a panel of experts, aimed at throwing a spotlight on how the family courts manage the safety and well-being of children when there is a risk of domestic abuse.

Specifically, the call for evidence will focus on private family law proceedings, and will ask:

How Practice Direction 12J is being applied – this relates to child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is a factor. This includes its interaction with the presumption of parental involvement in the Children Act 1989;

How ‘barring orders’ are being used – these prevent further applications being made without leave of the court which could be used to re-traumatise those who’ve faced abuse;

How FPR Part 3A and Practice Direction 3AA are being applied – this relates to special measures; and

What is the impact on the child and parent victim where child contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or who has, committed domestic abuse or other relevant offences.

Responding directly to concerns raised recently including in the government’s Domestic Abuse Consultation, the review will also consider the use of ‘barring orders’- court orders which can prevent abusive parents from making further court applications that often serve to simply re-traumatise their victims.

It will also examine what the risk is to children and parents in continuing to have a relationship with a parent with a history of abusive behaviour, including where continuing contact between the parents is required by court orders.

It will also look at how these courts handle a range of offences including rape, child abuse, assault, sexual assault, murder and other violent crimes.

The focus on family courts follows a number of government changes to tackle domestic abuse, including widening the evidence requirements to allow victims access to legal aid.

In addition, £900k has been allocated to fund organisations who provide emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims before, during and after hearings in the family court.

Speaking at the call for evidence’s launch on 19 July, the Justice Minister at the time, Paul Maynard – since replaced by Wendy Morton – said: “Domestic abuse destroys lives, which is why survivors and their children must have every confidence that they will be protected in the family courts.

“Just this week we introduced legislation that will ban abusers from cross-examining their victims in the family courts, and throughout our review we will be engaging with victims across the country to make sure we are doing all we can to protect them further.

“The review – ordered by ministers in May – will also consider the level of encouragement victims are given to raise concerns, the standard of domestic abuse information shared with courts, as well as looking to better understand the different types of coercive control.”

The call for evidence will close on 26 August.

To take part online, click here. All questions in this questionnaire are optional. Please answer as many or as few questions as you like.

This call for evidence asks questions about domestic abuse and other serious offences, private law children proceedings and the impact or harms this may have had on those involved, which some people may find traumatic to recount.

Services such as Women’s Aid, Welsh Women’s Aid, Respect and Victim Support will be able to assist you should require any support before, during or after completing this call for evidence.

Call for evidence on family court issues