Domestic abuse has soared during lockdown, so it is timely that the Court of Appeal will shortly be issuing new guidance to family court judges on their approach to child arrangements where there are allegations of domestic abuse.
In January, the Court of Appeal heard four linked cases relating to family proceedings involving the welfare of children. Women’s Aid and Families Need Fathers are among the organisations involved, representing the rights of men, women and children, in this first major review of cases in this area of law for 20 years.
When the court hands down its judgment it is expected to give new best practice guidance for the courts when dealing with family law cases involving allegations of controlling and coercive behaviour and sexual violence.
Domestic abuse and the family court
The court has recognised that in the past domestic abuse was viewed in a very literal way, with “Domestic Violence” terminology recognising only physical violence; and, worse, acknowledged that when the violence was “minor” it has perhaps been minimalised by the courts.
In 2021, there is more understanding that people can live in abusive relationships without physical violence. There are, of course, already rules on what the family court should do in circumstances of alleged, admitted or “at risk of” violence. In practice, delays in the overstretched court system, exacerbated by lockdown, mean that allegations can take months to be heard and attested. The impact on everyone involved – including children – can be profound.
Hidden abuse in rural communities
Our experience at Silk Family Law working with clients living in relatively isolated rural communities and often working alone, is that the lack of a “normal” social interaction safety net leaves some more vulnerable to suffering abuse. Lockdown has further increased this risk.
Putting children first
Children’s welfare is always the court’s paramount concern when considering with whom a child shall live and spend time. Domestic abuse requires consideration of power dynamics, behaviour patterns and impacts on the victim. The court has the difficult job of balancing protection for those who need it with consideration of the potentially devastating consequences of false allegations. It is hoped the new guidance will give further clarity on how all concerned can be afforded protection by the courts.
What to do right now if you are affected
Silk Family Law acts swiftly and decisively to obtain protection against domestic abuse, the removal of children from the jurisdiction and the dissipation of financial assets. Call us today if you need assistance.