Are we due for a change in family law procedure regarding domestic violence?
SMQ Legal have family solicitors who can advise how to access protection from domestic abuse in the family courts. We explore here whether the law needs to be changed – are the current forms and practices fit for purpose? If you have questions please contact us.
The Court of Appeal recently heard a case where four linked appeal cases relating to children’s welfare proceedings were brought before the Court of Appeal.
Some would argue that reform in the family courts of domestic violence cases is long overdue, given the last general guidance handed down by the Court of Appeal was more than twenty years ago, resulting in Practice Direction 12J. This offered guidance on obligations placed upon the family court when domestic violence is disclosed by a party.
The Scott Schedule is a schedule or table used in family court proceedings to set out the allegations in dispute. ‘Everyone in this case has acknowledged difficulties with the Scott Schedule,’ Janet Bazley QC, representing one of the fathers, said. It has been long felt that the Scott Schedule is not fit for purpose as it does not detail patterns of behaviour sufficient which must be taken into account, especially when considering coercive and controlling behaviour.
In this Court of Appeal case it was disputed the available guidance for domestic violence, especially with regard to the C1A form. Some would argue that this form was not fit for purpose, especially where a party was not clear on the abuse that had been suffered, as may be the case for coercive and controlling cases. It was suggested that the courts need to take a more practical and proactive approach. A clear checklist could be provided at the end of the first hearing and dispute resolution appointment (FHDRA), which the lay parties can take away, considering what evidence will be required if there is to be a fact-finding hearing. Greater use should be made of pre-trial reviews.
As a result of this Court of Appeal case, family law court procedure may be due a shake up, which will hopefully provide better mechanisms of support for domestic violence survivors.
By Jennifer Arkell