There have been two recent developments in the law surrounding allegations of domestic abuse between parents or former partners.
Sadly, allegations of domestic abuse from one parent against the other remain a feature in a high proportion of cases (as high as 40%) where the Court is asked to consider and decide future arrangements for the children following the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.
The Court will often need to identify and, where necessary, decide upon issues of domestic abuse. Where past domestic abuse is found to have taken place, the court must consider the impact that abuse has had on both the child(ren) and parent, and then determine what orders are to be made for the future protection and welfare of the parent and child(ren) in light of those findings.
The Court of Appeal has recently considered four cases involving such allegations and has taken the opportunity to provide updated guidance as to how such issues should be approached. As part of these proceedings, various other interested parties were able to be involved, including Women’s Aid and Families Need Fathers.
Whilst the Court decided that the guidance currently in place to assist the Court in considering such issues remained fit for purpose, they offered further direction as to how that guidance should be interpreted and implemented. This included consideration of the now better understood concept of coercive and/or controlling behaviour.
In addition, the Domestic Abuse Bill is now law. The Domestic Abuse Act will provide further protections to the many people who experience domestic abuse and strengthen measures to tackle perpetrators.
There is now a wide-ranging legal definition of domestic abuse which incorporates a range of abuses beyond physical violence, including emotional, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse.
The measures include important new protections and support for victims. This includes in the family and civil courts, where victims will be given access to special measures and a perpetrator will be prevented from being able to cross examine a victim of abuse.
Both the Police and the Court will also be given new powers providing victims with immediate protection from abusers and requiring a perpetrator to tackle their behaviour.
Time will tell in relation to the impact both developments will have, but it is clear that understanding of abuse and the impact it can have on both children and adults is improving, and that better measures are needed to protect victims.
If you feel the above may be relevant in your own situation, then please do not hesitate to contact myself or another member of the family team. We have experience in dealing with the above issues, and the Court’s approach to them.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.