Government to put wellbeing of children first in family court hearings

The Government will do more to put the safety, health and wellbeing of children first in family court cases, it has been revealed.

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

The MoJ has also formed a panel of experts to review how the family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse.

The panel – consisting of experts including senior members of the judiciary, leading academics and charities – have been ordered to make recommendations and report back in three months.

Specifically, the panel will review and make recommendations for:

  • The courts’ application of Practice Direction 12J (relating to child arrangement cases where domestic abuse is a factor)
  • The courts’ application of ‘barring orders’ which prevent further applications being made without leave of the court under the Children Act 1989
  • And gather 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

It comes after concerns were raised over how vulnerable children and adults were being potentially exposed to violent and abusive parents and former partners. The worrying reports – which called for better protections for children – claim that some domestic abusers are “using the court system to re-traumatise their victims”.

Commenting on the review, 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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