New Family Court rules in domestic abuse cases involving children

October 2, 2017, By

As from today, revised rules will come into force in cases involving arrangements for children, including where a child lives and with whom he/she spends time (child arrangements orders).

The new rules, made by the highest-ranking Family Court judge, Sir James Munby, will apply where there is an allegation of domestic abuse.

The most significant change is to the presumption that a child benefits from having both parents involved in his/her life. Under the new rules, if there is evidence to the contrary the presumption will not apply. In determining this, the court must consider whether there is ‘any allegation or admission of harm by domestic abuse to the child or parent’ or ‘any evidence indicating such harm or risk of harm’.

The revised rules also widen the definition of domestic abuse, and provide that abuse also includes ‘culturally specific forms of abuse including, but not limited to, forced marriage, honour-based violence, dowry-related abuse and transnational marriage abandonment’.

The court should also consider whether a fact-finding hearing is necessary in order to deal with any disputed allegations of domestic abuse.

The change is to be welcomed following campaigning from Women’s Aid and a review of the previous rules by Lord Justice Cobb. It is strongly hoped that the new rules will help ensure children’s safety in the future and will alert professionals to any risks.

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