June 2020, midway through the pandemic and after a vast increase in domestic violence reports, saw the Ministry of Justice publish their final report entitled ‘Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases.’ This resulted in the forming of a Family Justice Council Forum which will hopefully begin to completely adapt and change the way domestic abuse is considered and addressed in the family court.

It is hoped that with the implementation of some changes, the overall impact will be far reaching and beneficial. The above report has considered how effectively the family court identifies and responds to domestic abuse and has currently noted a lack of understanding of different types of abuse and the ongoing impact of such abuse. The possible reforms hope to improve this, together with an increase in child involvement, greater professional presence and improve both the resources available and the understanding of all involved.

There is likely to be legislation and training alterations with a change to an overarching investigative (rather than a conflicting) approach whereby:

  • Less focus is placed on parental involvement automatically being beneficial for a child
  • Child Arrangements Programmes focussing more on safety, trauma awareness and managing the impact of abuse on a child
  • A child should have a greater, louder, enhanced voice
  • Specialist support should be available to ensure adults and children are protected and familiarised with Court, a Court building and the Court process
  • Investment into resources via Cafcass, Legal Aid and educational, therapeutic and supportive services will occur
  • Social workers and individuals involved in the family justice system would receive wide ranging training

It is beneficial to everybody that the family justice system should be the best it can be, protecting as many adults and children as possible. With the hoped for changes considered by the Harm Panel and Ministry of Justice report, any variations would be well received and helpful.

The primary focus of any case should be to adequately protect a victim of domestic abuse or a child and swift changes to improve this even further, seem to be coming.

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