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Call for evidence assessing the risk of harm to children in private family law cases

Progress update


29 October 2019
Call for evidence assessing the risk of harm to children in private family law cases

The Ministry of Justice has published a progress update following a three-month call for evidence on how the family court responds to domestic abuse allegations.

A panel of family justice experts are considering the effectiveness of the family court in responding to allegations of domestic abuse (DA) and other harms in such proceedings, specifically:

  • Application, outcomes and impact for parents and children of Practice Direction (PD) 12J, and its interaction with the presumption of parental involvement in s.1(2A) of the Children Act 1989.
  • Application, outcomes and impact for parents and children of Family Procedure Rules Part 3A and PD 3AA in DA cases/cases involving other serious offences against parties and/or children.
  • Application, outcomes and impact on parents and children of s.91(14) of the Children Act 1989 in DA cases.
  • Challenges in implementing these provisions, especially any inconsistencies and inadequacies in practice.
  • Risk of harm to children and non-abusive parents in continuing relationships and contact with an abusive parent.


Over three months, the panel has gathered evidence using a mixed-methods approach including carrying out a literature review and a call for written evidence, as well as convening roundtable events and focus groups.

The call for evidence received over 1,200 responses, with 80% from individuals with experience of family court proceedings. 63% of respondents identified themselves as mothers or mothers’ family members, while 17% identified themselves as fathers or fathers’ family members.

So far, the evidence suggests systemic issues with risk identification and management which need addressing to better protect children and DA victims from harm. Many respondents identifying as victims reported degrading and re-traumatising experiences of family court. Regarding outcomes, concerns were raised about the family court prioritising children’s relationships with a non-resident parent over the welfare of that child, without considering carefully enough the risks to which the child and other parent might be exposed.

The panel will complete further analysis of the evidence, including reflective engagement with key stakeholders, to consider their findings in detail. 

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