Children: child arrangements orders – safeguards when domestic abuse arises (England and Wales)

House of Commons Library

This House of Commons Library briefing paper considers the safeguards available to courts when issues of domestic abuse arise in connection with family proceedings. A link to the full report in pdf format can be found at the bottom of this page.

Practice Direction 12J (PD12J), of the Family Procedure Rules 2010 published by the Ministry of Justice, sets out “what the Family Court or the High 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”.

Where there are allegations of domestic abuse, then a court can request a fact-finding hearing (also known as a finding of fact hearing). PD12J sets out the factors that a court should consider when determining whether it is necessary to conduct a fact-finding hearing

PD12J is currently in its third iteration and in 2017 new Part 3A and the accompanying new Practice Direction 3AA were introduced which make “special provision about the participation of vulnerable persons in family proceedings and about vulnerable persons giving evidence in such proceedings”.  

The Home Affairs Select Committee considered how the courts deal with domestic abuse during family proceedings in their October 2018 report, and made a number of recommendations. The current arrangements have also been considered in a report by Women’s Aid and Queen Mary University School of Law, as well as during a parliamentary debate.