New guidance published for Family Court in England and Wales
There has recently been the publication of new guidance within the Family Court in England and Wales regarding contact between parents and children. The guidelines aim to protect children from violent parents when dealing with issues such as where the children should live and how much contact they should have with each parent. The changes require judges to consider whether the presumption that both parents should be granted contact with the child or children should apply.
In the Family Court in England and Wales, judges are supposed to follow guidance, known as Practice Direction 12J of the Family Procedure Rules 2010, when handling cases in which domestic violence is cited as an issue. Following the Child First campaign by Women’s Aid, launched on the Victoria Derbyshire programme in January 2016, Mr Justice Cobb carried out a review of the guidance, which resulted in some amendments.
A key aspect of the guidance is asking judges to consider whether the presumption that there should be “contact at all costs” with both parents applies. This includes domestic violence cases, where involvement of a parent in a child’s life would place either the child or other parent at risk of harm.
The Ministry of Justice said it was determined to improve the treatment of abuse victims in the justice system. A spokesperson for 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.”
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.