Children’s wellbeing will be put first in Family court hearings, says Government

The Government has announced that it intends to do more to put the safety, health and wellbeing of children first in Family Court cases.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it is looking to those with direct involvement to share their experiences, in launching a new public ‘Call for Evidence’.

Meanwhile, MoJ has convened an expert panel to review how the Family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse.

The panel, which is made up of experts including senior members of the judiciary, leading academics and charities, has been asked to make recommendations and report back within three months.

The panel will make recommendations for:

  • The courts’ application of Practice Direction 12J, which relates to child arrangement cases where domestic violence is a consideration
  • The courts’ application of ‘barring orders’ which prevent further applications being made without leave of the court under the Children Act 1989
  • Evidence of the impact on the child and victim where child contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or who has, committed domestic abuse or other relevant offences.

The move follows concerns about how vulnerable children and adults were potentially being exposed to violent and abusive parent and former partners.

Justice Minister Paul Maynard said: “Some of the most vulnerable in our society come before the Family courts, and I am absolutely determined that we offer them every protection.

“This review will help us better understand victims’ experiences of the system, and make sure the family court is never used to coerce or re-traumatise those who have been abused.

“Its findings will be used to inform next steps so we can build on the raft of measures we have already introduced to protect victims of domestic abuse.”

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