LinkedIn   Twitter   Facebook   Instagram  
[title]

Get In
Touch

Open Mon - Fri
8:30 am to 5:00 pm

enquiries@hawkinsfamilylaw.co.uk

Stony Stratford: 01908 262680
Bicester: 01869 225580

RAMBLINGS  |  CAREERS  |  FEEDBACK  |  READING TITLES  |  USEFUL INFORMATION

Domestic violence and child contact - can these work together?- March 24th, 2017

March 24th, 2017

 

Domestic violence often hits the headlines and the majority of the time it is in relation to the women suffering abuse but as many people know, if there are children in the family, they suffer too.

Whilst Russia has just passed legislation to soften the penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence including that against children, 26,000 of whom are beaten by their parents every year[1] the UK is moving in the opposite direction trying to ensure that the safety of children is paramount.

Women's Aid has presented a petition entitled Child First to the Prime Minister. The petition aims to make child contact safer for children after numerous child deaths “as a result of unsafe child contact with dangerous perpetrators of domestic violence”.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said:

“There is a misguided belief within the family courts and among judges that, because a relationship has ended, so has the domestic abuse. Survivors frequently report to us that they and their children are re-victimised and traumatised by their abusers, even after separation, through the family court process. This trauma makes it extremely difficult for the non-abusive parent to advocate clearly and effectively for the safety of their child. In the criminal courts, there are protection measures in place to give victims fair access to justice. This is not the case in the family courts. For example, it is common for victims of domestic abuse to be cross-examined by the perpetrator. This must end”.

“The desire by the family courts to treat parents in exactly the same way, and get cases over with quickly, blinds them to the consequences of unsafe child contact. As the report Nineteen Child Homicides[2] shows, these consequences can be fatal. The culture of, ‘contact with the child, no matter what’, must end. Less than 1% of child contact applications are refused, but we know that domestic abuse features in around 70% of CAFCASS caseloads, and in 70-90% of cases going to the family courts. Clearly, the system is failing. The best interests of children should be the overriding principle of the family courts, but far too often this is simply not the case.”

It appears that the Family Courts are now listening as on the 19th January 2017 Mr Justice Cobb recommended, as part of his review of Practice Direction 12J that a number of revisions were made to the practice direction.

Practice Direction 12J applies to any family proceedings where the court considers that an order should be made:

  • in which an application is made for a child arrangements order; or 
  • in which any question arises about where a child should live; or 
  • about contact between a child and a parent or other family member. 

The purpose of this Practice Direction is to set out what the Family Court should do:

  • in any case in which it is alleged or admitted, or 
  • there is other reason to believe, 

that the child or a party has experienced domestic violence or abuse perpetrated by another party or that there is a risk of such violence or abuse.

The changes proposed to Practice Direction 12J are as follows:

  • that the presumption that ‘contact at all costs’ is best for the child, is displaced 
  • the court is now required to ensure that the court process itself is not being used as a means in itself to allow ‘abuse or control’ by the abusive parent 
  • the waiting arrangements at court are re-examined and special measures used 
  • further protection from cross-examination by the abuser needs to be given to the victim 
  • where domestic abuse has been proved, a safety and risk assessment is conducted by a specialist domestic abuse practitioner
  •  ‘harm’ has now been specifically defined in relation to the common test of ‘protection from risk of harm’ 

Mr Justice Cobb commented that these changes are intended to improve the implementation of the Practice Direction and will help to ensure safety is at the heart of decisions made on child contact in the family courts.

Will this lead to spurious accusations of domestic violence being made so that contact can be withheld? Will some fathers believe they will automatically be denied contact over false allegations?

The flip side of this is that not all women report abuse. Statistics show that when they do, it is usually after they have suffered significant harm from their husbands/partners for a period of approximately:

  • 2.3 years for high risk victims; and 
  • 3 years for medium risk victims. 

With 62% of children living with domestic abuse being directly harmed by the perpetrator of the abuse, in addition to the harm caused by witnessing the abuse of others[3], surely non abusive fathers can see why such steps need to be taken?

Whose rights are more important? The parent? or those of the children?

Is it likely that contact would simply be denied immediately? Perhaps it is more likely that an assessment would need to be carried out? This has been suggested where domestic abuse has been proven but would determining whether there are any immediate child safety concerns as a priority, and utilising secure contact centres allowing the parent contact in a place of safety, be a possibility?

While many will argue that this is the role of Cafcass in their safeguarding report, often these hardly scratch the surface and with so much pressure on their service, it is hardly surprising that potential risks are missed.

The sad fact is, that children have been killed by a parent known to perpetrate domestic abuse and stringent safeguards may have saved them, the Women's Aid report ‘Nineteen Child Homicides’ details 19 such cases.

Hopefully with the changes to Practice Direction 12J reports of this kind will no longer need to be produced and the safety of children will be the most important factor in deciding contact and living arrangements.

If you have any concerns about any of the issues raised in this note please contact the writer.

Julia Davies
Trainee Solicitor

[1] Russian Legal Information Agency http://rapsinews.com/legislation_news/20170127/277663883.html
[2] https://www.womensaid.org.uk/launch-of-nineteen-child-homicides-report-child-first-campaign/
[3] SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives. http://safelives.org.uk/policy-evidence/about-domestic-abuse/who-are-victims-domestic-abuse

Julia began her legal career in 1988 when she started work for a company in Shropshire as a legal secretary. After taking a career break to have a family, moving back to Milton Keynes and then while raising her 2 daughters, Julia decided to study a law degree, part time, with the Open University. After completing her degree in 2008 Julia then went on to take her Legal Practice Course (LPC), part time, with the College of Law in Bloomsbury, London.

While undertaking her LPC Julia became a member of Resolution and also spent several years volunteering at Milton Keynes Citizens Advice Bureau as a generalist adviser.

Shortly after receiving a commendation for her LPC, Julia took a position at a small firm in Northamptonshire for a short time before joining Hawkins Family Law in October 2011. Julia has now moved into the post of trainee solicitor, is training under the supervision of the Directors of Hawkins Family Law and aims to qualify as a solicitor in 2018.

 

  • What Is Chambers and Partners?
  • Service Of Key Court Papers By Whatsapp
  • Is Therapy for Me?
  • What Constitutes Value?
  • F v M (Temporary Leave to Remove: Alleged Risk of Onward Abduction to Non-Hague Country)
  • Can Assets of a Parent Be Taken into Account in a CMS Calculation?
  • What is the HSSF Mark?
  • Wife’s Attempt to Appeal Arbitration Award Fails!
  • Shared Care Orders
  • Mental Health Awareness Week 2019
  • What Happens If I Make an Agreement Regarding Finances and Then Change My Mind?
  • Spousal Maintenance on Divorce – Is There A Claim?
  • Daga v Bangur [2018] EWFC 91 – Case Update
  • Common Law Marriage Is Not Changing!
  • Whose Outcome Is It?
  • In the Event of A ‘No Deal’ Brexit
  • What Constitutes Value?
  • What Is Legal 500?
  • Spring Clean your Routine
  • Mother Ordered to Return Child to Latvia
  • What Is ‘Chambers and Partners UK’?
  • Arbitration. A viable alternative?
  • Strive for stability in 2019
  • What Happens If I Make an Agreement Regarding Finances and Then Change My Mind?
  • Stacey Accredited by Resolution
  • Can Financial Claims Still Be Made Years After Divorce?
  • What Is the Difference Between A Court Order and An Undertaking?
  • Divorce or Annulment?
  • Therapy - A New Year’s resolution.
  • Cohabitation and the need for reform
  • The “Common Law Marriage myth”
  • What to think about when you are considering divorce from a financial perspective
  • Increase in IVF and Surrogacy Leads to A Decrease in Adoption Rates
  • Looking After Yourself
  • Transparency in the Family Courts
  • The Legal 500 rankings for 2018/19
  • Forced Marriage
  • What can therapy help with?
  • Chambers and Partners Ranking Released
  • Does Divorce Law Encourage Couples to Reconcile?
  • What is Resolution?
  • Asserting yourself or saying no.
  • Is Bigger Always Better?
  • McKenzie Friend
  • Prioritising Your Children’s Needs in Adverse Circumstances
  • What do I need to know if I decide to cohabit with someone?
  • High Court Judge ‘Deprecates’ Interrupting Barristers
  • Prohibited Steps Orders
  • Domestic abuse in all its forms is unacceptable
  • The Five Facts for obtaining a Divorce Part 2
  • The Five Facts for Obtaining a Divorce: Behaviour/Adultery
  • Remember and recover... Forgive and forget... - August 3rd, 2018
  • Case Law Update – Hermens v Hermans - 27th July 2018
  • Finding summer happiness July 24th 2018
  • The first women to be convicted of coercive behaviour
  • New Starter
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the 'rise of the machines'.
  • Let's remove fault based divorce - July 6th, 2018
  • Honesty really is the best policy - June 29th, 2018
  • Heterosexual Couples win right to enter into Civil Partnerships - June 27th, 2018
  • Waggott v Waggott [2018] EWCA Civ 727 - June 22th, 2018
  • Privacy and confidentiality - June 15th, 2018
  • The ongoing Russian oligarch saga - June 8th, 2018
  • Being a Trainee Solicitor - June 1st, 2018
  • 83 year old millionaire jailed for non-compliance with divorce order
  • Conduct in Financial Proceedings & The Notorious "Add-Back" Argument - May 18th, 2018
  • Mental Health Week - 14th to 20th May 2018 - May 11th, 2018
  • What can we do so I can win? - May 4th, 2018
  • New measures designed to tackle domestic abuse - April 27th, 2018
  • Can I stop the other parent of my child making an application to the court?
  • Cryptocurrencies and divorce - April 13th, 2018
  • April 6th 2018 - Spring
  • How to sleep - March 29th, 2018
  • First surrogacy guidance published for England and Wales - March 23rd, 2018
  • Feminism in Family Law Part 2 – Parents and Children - March 9th, 2018
  • Feminism in Family Law Part 1 - Ancillary Relief - March 2nd, 2018
  • Chambers & Partners - February 23rd, 2018
  • Google Depression - February 16th, 2018
  • What is a Fact-Finding Hearing? - Feburary 9th, 2018
  • Moving Forward - Feburary 2nd, 2018
  • Parental Alienation - January 26th, 2018
  • Financing a property after divorce or separation – January 19th, 2018
  • Ideas to help buy a property after divorce or separation - January 12th, 2018
  • New Year 2018 - January 5th, 2018
  • The First Step - December 29th, 2017
  • Have a considered Christmas 2017 - December 22nd, 2017
  • Who is looking after you? - December 15th, 2017
  • What is the legal 500 - December 8th, 2017
  • When the clocks go back - December 1st, 2017
  • You are the Priority - November 17th, 2017
  • Hawkins Family Law ‘Boutique family law firm that punches above its weight’ as noted by Chambers and Partners UK Guide, 2018
  • Husband installs secret cameras to record abuse from wife - November 24th, 2017
  • My spouse owns the family home - what can I do to protect my interest? Can I still live there until the divorce is finalised? - November 10th, 2017
  • Division of assets following divorce - November 3rd, 2017
  • My marriage has broken down - what do I need to do? - October 27th, 2017
  • Identifying your emotions to create change - October 20th, 2017
  • Jo Hawkins is listed in elite “ Leading Lawyers” list by The Legal 500 United Kingdom, 2017’s guide to outstanding lawyers nationwide - October 12th, 2017
  • New divorce forms unveiled - October 6th, 2017
  • Judge writes personal letter to teen after High Court battle - September 29th, 2017
  • Mental Health Saboteurs - September 22nd, 2017
  • Birch V Birch - September 8th, 2017
  • Congratulations, Rebecca Stewart passes her CILEx Level 6 in Client Care!
  • Resolution emphasises the need for more specialist financial advisers - August 25th, 2017
  • ONS - Population estimates for the proportion who are married or cohabiting by reference to age and sex in E & W
  • Court of Appeal rule forging contact order cannot be enforced - August 11th, 2017
  • Understanding loss as part of divorce - August 4th, 2017
  • Summary Case Law Update: X v X (application for a financial remedies order) [2016] EWHC 1995 (Fam)
  • Stacey accredited by Resolution - July 21st, 2017
  • Australian Divorce - Court of Appeal reject wife's bid for a larger settlement - July 14th, 2017
  • Just have a day - July 7th, 2017
  • Stuck in my marriage - June 30th, 2017
  • Emergency - a without notice injunctive order - June 23rd, 2017
  • Case law update concerning a mother’s application to relocate to the USA - June 16th, 2017
  • Reconciling as parents - June 9th, 2017
  • Stacey passes Collaborative Foundation training!
  • Life changing circumstances - May 26th, 2017
  • Bank of mum and dad - May 19th, 2017
  • Giving Evidence in a Children Act Case - May 12th, 2017
  • Are you more likely to divorce if you confide in female friends? - May 5th, 2017
  • Respond - do not react! - April 28th, 2017
  • Student loans - April 24th, 2017
  • Identity or not identity - April 20th, 2017
  • I don’t agree with what my spouse has said about me on his/ her divorce petition- Should I defend it?
  • Are judges the same as the rest of us? - March 31st, 2017
  • Domestic violence and child contact - can these work together?- March 24th, 2017
  • Child Arbitration- March 17th, 2017
  • A Step in the right direction for Cohabitees- March 3rd, 2017
  • Blue Monday- March 3rd, 2017
  • Blog on Matrimonial Survey Statistics - February 24th, 2017
  • What is it like to go to family court?- February 17th, 2017
  • Funding - February 10th, 2017
  • December 2016 - December 16th, 2016
  • Twas the night before Christmas… - December 23rd, 2016
  • Online Divorce Proceedings - January 20th, 2017
  • Case Law Update Concerning Overseas Pensions - January 13th, 2017
  • Make one resolution for 2017. Be Kind to Yourself - January 6th, 2017
  • Social Media in Divorce - December 2nd, 2016
  • Planning for Christmas following divorce or separation - December 9th, 2016
  • Should graduates be used to help Litigants in Person - December 30th, 2016
  • Talk To One Of Our Legal Experts

    01908 262680

    enquiries@hawkinsfamilylaw.co.uk

    enquiries@hawkinsfamilylaw.co.uk

    Talk To One Of Our Legal Experts

    01908 262680

    enquiries@hawkinsfamilylaw.co.uk

    enquiries@hawkinsfamilylaw.co.uk

    2019 Family: Beds, Bucks, Herts and Middx – South East

    Hawkins Family Law fields 'a very professional team that delivers a high-class service and has strength-in-depth from senior to junior level'. Managing director and team head Jo Hawkins provides 'clear and accurate advice and moral support through often testing times for her clients; she focuses on deriving the best long-term outcome for her client and other parties'. The practice has particular strength financial matters, including divorce and ToLATA proceedings. Other key figures include Loraine Davenport, who has strong collaborative law expertise and handles complex children cases and high-net-worth ancillary relief matters; Annabel Hayward, who focuses on complex financial provision and co-habitation matters; and Stacey St Clair.

    For more information please click here.

    2019 Family/Matrimonial – Milton Keynes and surrounds

    What the team is known for
    Boutique family law firm that punches above its weight in terms of high-value and complex matrimonial finance instructions relating to business assets, pensions and substantial property portfolios, including assisting with the handling of assets abroad. Also represents clients in the negotiation of wealth protection agreements and private law childcare arrangements. Fields a team trained in collaborative law and alternative dispute resolution.

    Strengths
    An impressed client says: "The team's personal service and individual care is a great asset,"adding that the lawyers are "always available to assist and understand the occasional need for immediate advice and guidance, providing a very reassuring service."

    For more information please click here.