Shane Miller, Director and Head of Family for Thursfields Solicitors, considers the introduction of new judicial guidance aimed at protecting children from domestic violence is timely.
She said there had been too many shocking deaths at the hands of an abusive parent allowed access by the courts.
She stated: “This is designed to save lives. Campaigners have highlighted a series of dreadful cases where children have been killed by a parent who was also a known perpetrator of domestic abuse. Protecting the child while respecting paternal rights can be a difficult balancing act for the judiciary. They don’t always get it right.
In bitter separation disputes all sorts of things can be alleged which may or may not be true. However, there has been a feeling in some quarters that the pendulum in family courts had swung too far in favour of the presumption that it was in the best interest of the child to have contact with both parents. This new guidance will hopefully address that.”
The changes are contained in amendments to judicial guidance known as practice direction 12J.
In effect, the presumption in the family court that there should be “contact at all costs” with both parents has been scrapped when domestic violence/abuse has been alleged.
Mr Justice Cobb, who carried out the review, said it should be excluded in domestic violence cases where involvement of a parent in a child’s life would place the child or other parent at risk of harm.
Shane said: “A number of deaths have followed a court order meaning the children had to have contact visits or even live with an abusive parent. Judges are now being asked to be extra vigilant. But the death of any child in such circumstances is a death too many.”
The Ministry of Justice is supporting the revised practice direction, saying it would “help ensure the family courts take full account of the harm that can result from domestic abuse”.
For further information and advice please contact Shane Miller on 01562 820575 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org