New Family Court guidance issued in child custody cases

Posted on Monday October 2, 2017

Today, new Family Court guidance will end the presumption that both parents should be granted access to children during custody disputes.

Women’s Aid, the domestic violence charity, said the changes will be “lifesaving”.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said it was determined to improve the treatment of domestic abuse victims in the family justice system.

The current guidance, known as Practice Direction 12J, presumes that there should be “contact at all costs” with both parents.

It comes after months of criticism of how domestic violence victims are treated in the courts. Several reports show that victims were often allowed to be cross-examined by their physically or mentally abusive partners.

Women’s Aid also found that 20 children have been killed by a parent who was also a known perpetrator of domestic abuse.

The majority of these cases followed a court order that allowed children to contact or live with abusive parents, it said.

Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said the “vital, lifesaving changes” would make judges more accountable when making child contact decisions.

“We want to see children’s safety at the heart of all decisions made by the Family Courts and this cannot be done without a thorough understanding of domestic abuse, including coercive control, and the devastating impact it has on children,” she said.

“We call for judges and magistrates to be provided with compulsory training to make sure that they follow the guidance properly and get child contact decisions right every time.”

The Ministry of Justice said: “We are determined to improve the treatment of domestic abuse victims in the family justice system.

“We therefore welcome this revised practice direction, which will help ensure the family courts take full account of the harm that can result from domestic abuse.”