Domestic Abuse & the Family Court

26th June 2020

The Government have announced an overhaul of how the Family Court can protect domestic abuse victims.

Some of the proposed reforms include:

1) More victims of domestic abuse being given access to separate building entrances and waiting rooms as well as protective screens to shield them from their alleged abuser in Court.  Currently some Courts do offer these facilities but not all and it can be a practical nightmare for family lawyers in trying to find a separate room for them and their clients.  Not having to see the abuser at all will make sure that the victim feels calmer and safer whilst being at Court, which in itself can be quite daunting for some.

2) Stronger powers for judges to issue barring orders which prevent abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court, which can be used as a form of continuing domestic abuse.  If such a barring order is made, it will give victims some relief to know that they will not have to go through the court process again and again.

3) Fundamental changes as to how Courts hear cases which will be through a new investigative court process.  This will be trialled as part of the Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts pilot which will consider family and criminal matters in parallel in order to provide more consistent support for victims. Emphasis will be placed on getting to the root of an issue and ensuring all parties are safe and able to provide evidence on an equal footing, without the retraumatising effects of being in Court with an abusive ex-partner.

The changes follow after an expert-led review into how the Family Courts handle domestic abuse and other serious offences raised concerns that victims and children were being put at unnecessary risk.

Additionally, ministers will launch a review into the presumption of ‘parental involvement’ (per section 1(2A) of the Children Act 1989) as to whether the right balance is being struck between the risk of harm to children and victims and the right of the child to have a relationship with both parents.  More details of this will follow.

If you are worried about your safety and need assistance with the legal process of trying to protect yourself, then contact our Family Team for more information on 01892 824 577 or on family@burtons-solicitors.com.