University of Kent
This article presents a summary of a recent report on the findings of a national online survey of judicial officers and practitioners commissioned by the Family Justice Council to monitor the operation of the President's Practice Direction 12J, which applies to proceedings concerning contact and residence orders where allegations of domestic violence are made. The research results suggest that the Practice Direction is not operating in the way it was intended to do, in that the perceived relevance of domestic violence to contact and residence orders is being narrowed beyond the terms of the Practice Direction and the Guidance on Split Hearings, so that allegations of domestic violence tend to be minimised or disregarded. This has resulted in the holding of fact-finding hearings being unduly restricted, and findings or admissions not being given sufficient weight or followed through in orders made. The implementation of the Practice Direction is also hampered by severe resource limitations. The suggestions for improvement offered in the report are made on the basis that it is important to have a system that operates as effectively as possible within resource constraints, rather than one which adapts dysfunctionally to resource limitations by attempting to minimise the relevance of domestic violence.
The full version of this article appears in the April 2013 issue of Family Law.