Family Proceedings – Practice Direction 12J – Domestic Violence?

Practice Direction 12J – Domestic Violence was established on the 2nd October 2017 to increase the awareness of domestic violence and the effect it has on children. 

Its purpose is to provide clear steps for the court to follow so that when domestic abuse is alleged or is proven in a relationship and/or has affected a child, there’s a straightforward process.

The Practice Direction interprets ‘domestic abuse’ as:

  • A pattern of events of controlling, threatening or coercive behaviour
  • Violence or abuse of those who are aged 16+ who are family members or intimate partners, no matter their gender or sexuality

This includes but is not confined to: emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse and psychological abuse. Domestic abuse also encompasses culturally-specific forms of abuse such as forced marriage, honour-based violence, transnational marriage abandonment, dowry-related abuse and other similar forms.

Domestic violence – the impact it has on children

Domestic violence can cause children to:

  • be anxious or depressed
  • have problems sleeping
  • have nightmares and flashbacks
  • be startled easily
  • have regular stomach aches
  • wet the bed
  • have issues at school
  • regress and act younger than their age
  • be aggressive or withdrawn and timid
  • feel little self-worth
  • take drugs, self-harm
  • have eating disorders

    When parents separate and cannot reach an agreement regarding arrangements for their child(ren) a family court judge can make a legally binding decision known as a Child Arrangements Order which sets out who the child(ren) shall live with and spend time with.

    In cases that involve domestic abuse the Courts must consider the welfare checklist which is set out in section 1(3) of The Children Act 1989 and Practice Direction 12J.

    The purpose of the Practice Direction 12J is to set out what the Court is required to do in any case in which it is alleged or admitted, or there is other reason to believe, that the child or a party has experienced domestic abuse perpetrated by another party or that there is a risk of such abuse.

    The general principle is that domestic abuse is harmful to children, and puts children at risk of harm, whether they are subjected to domestic abuse, or witness one of their parents being violent or abusive to the other parent, or live in a home in which domestic abuse is perpetrated (even if the child is too young to be conscious of the behaviour). Children may suffer direct physical, psychological and/or emotional harm from living with domestic abuse and may also suffer harm indirectly where the domestic abuse impairs the parenting capacity of either or both of their parents.

    The Courts must identify the factual and welfare issues and consider the nature of the allegation and how relevant they are when determining arrangements for the children to ensure the child’s wellbeing is protected and that an order does not expose the child to further harm.

    The Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS) said in a statement ‘one of our most challenging professional tasks is to assess what level of parental involvement is safe and, in the child’s, best interests in cases where there has been domestic abuse’

    The Ministry of Justice said, “The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration of the family courts when making decisions about upbringing…and would continue to explore how the justice system deals with domestic abuse”.

    We understand how stressful and emotional it can be to make arrangements for children where domestic valence allegations have been made.

    If you need advice please call 01207.6551788.

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