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Survivors of domestic abuse and their children will receive greater protections after the government announced on 25 June 2020 an overhaul of how the family courts deal with the horrific crime.
New reforms will see more victims of domestic abuse given access to separate building entrances and waiting rooms as well as protective screens to shield them from their alleged abuser in court.
Ministers will also make it easier for judges to issue barring orders which prevent abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court – which can be used as a form of continuing domestic abuse.
The move comes after an expert-led review into how the family courts handle domestic abuse and other serious offences raised concerns that victims and children were being put at unnecessary risk.
Additionally, Ministers will launch a review into the presumption of ‘parental involvement’ that often encourages a child’s relationship with both parents, unless the involvement of that parent would put the child at risk. It will examine whether the right balance is being struck between the risk of harm to children and victims, and the right of the child to have a relationship with both parents. The government welcomes this key recommendation which requires careful consideration to implement correctly.
All too often, survivors and their children experience the family courts as failing to effectively protect them.
This welcome report must now deliver change. Guaranteeing special measures in the family courts is a critical protection which survivors have long called for. As a member of the expert panel, I look forward to seeing the government and family judiciary adopt all of the recommendations to change the culture of the family courts and deliver a safe and just contact system for survivors and their children.