The Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, said:
‘The family courts should be a place of safety, where children’s rights are put first and where the concerns and fears of survivors of domestic abuse are listened to and respected. However, this report represents a stark reminder of what happens when this is not the case, and child contact proceedings instead become traumatic and dangerous environments for both survivors and their children …
Only by challenging the inequalities and discrimination within the culture of the family courts, and promoting the understanding of human rights that apply to all, can we make sure that ‘child first’ becomes the fundamental approach in child contact proceedings - not just in rhetoric, but also in reality.’
Among its recommendations the report calls for:
An independent inquiry into the handling of domestic abuse by the family courts.
Improved education and awareness raising for all professionals involved in child contact cases.
The Ministry of Justice and the President of the Family Division to clarify the approach on parenting in cases involving domestic abuse.
The creation of a national oversight group for the implementation of Practice Direction 12J.
The Government to ensure that supervised and supported contact options are regulated and safe.
The prohibition of cross-examination in family courts of survivors by their abusive former partners.
A guarantee of special measures for survivors of domestic abuse in the family courts.
Better regulation of expert witnesses in the family court.
Actions to prevent the family courts being used to perpetuate post separation and financial abuse.
Better, empowering support for survivors of domestic abuse.
Read the report in full here.