Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases
Assessing Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children Cases (funded by the Ministry of Justice) examined how family courts protect children and adult victims of domestic abuse in child arrangement proceedings.
The report identified four structural barriers to recognising and addressing domestic abuse in family law cases: the court’s pro-contact culture, resource constraints, the adversarial process and silo working. These barriers lead to a minimising of domestic abuse in family law cases and consequently a failure to protect children and adult victims from continuing abuse.
The report recommends a shift from an adversarial to an investigative and problem-solving approach to gain a comprehensive understanding of what is happening for the child. This would require more systematic inclusion of children’s voices in proceedings, judicial continuity, joined-up working, and proactive follow-up by the court to ensure orders remain safe and workable, and to ensure that proceedings are not used to continue abuse and control. The report led to the government committing to significant reforms of the family justice system and amendments to what is now the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.
Rosemary Hunter (University of Kent) (PI), Liz Trinder (University of Exeter) and Mandy Burton (University of Leicester)
Ministry of Justice (2019-2020)