It has been confirmed that the Government are considering further looking into how well the Family Court is protecting children following concerns that children are exposed to potential harm in domestic abuse cases.
Work will be undertaken over a three month period to ensure the Family Court works first and foremost “in the best interests of the child”.
The Court are to ensure the children’s safety, health and well being are prioritised. The work undertaken will include senior members of the judiciary, academics and charities. Evidence will be issued straight away to hear from the people directly involved.
The work is being undertaken following concerns raised in its domestic abuse consultation about the family court’s response to potential harm to children and victims.
Concerns have also been raised that alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse were using the court system to re-traumatise their alleged victims.
Some people attend the family court on occasions at their most vulnerable and it is imperative they are offered appropriate protection.
The work undertaken will help the government have a better understanding of victims’ experiences of the system, and make sure the family court is never used to coerce or re-traumatise those who have been abused. Its findings will be used to inform next steps to build on measures already introduced to protect victims of domestic abuse.
The workers will also look at current practice directions relating to child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is a factor, look at the court’s application of ‘barring’ orders, and gather evidence on the impact on the child where contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or who has, committed domestic abuse or other relevant offences.
The latest work should build on banning the direct cross-examination of domestic violence victims by their alleged abusive ex-partners in court. Organisations are also being given funding to specially trained staff who will offer emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims before, during and after family court hearings.
Reinstating legal aid for early advice and updating the means tests will help to ensure domestic abuse is identified at the earliest possible point and children are properly protected from parents with a history of violence.