The House of Commons published a briefing paper two days ago which provides information on how the family court addresses issues of domestic abuse in private law proceedings relating to children, in particular proceedings relating to child arrangements orders. The final two sections of the briefing provide information on proposals for reform in this area.

The briefing explains the provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which was introduced to Parliament on 3 March 2020 and received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021. The Act includes a number of provisions related to how the family courts address issues of domestic abuse in private law proceedings relating to children. The Act:

  • Explicitly recognises children as victims of domestic abuse if they see, hear or experience the effects of the abuse.
  • Provides for the introduction of a new automatic ban on perpetrators of abuse cross-examining their victims in the family courts (and vice versa), in certain circumstances.
  • Makes provision to extend the availability of “special measures” to victims of domestic abuse in the family courts.
  • Clarifies the use of so-called “barring orders”.

The relevant sections of the Act have not yet been brought into force. The briefing also covers:

  1. Practice Direction 12J of the Family Procedure Rules
  2. A history of PD12J – its introduction and revisions
  3. Additional rules and directions to protect vulnerable witnesses in the Family Court
  4. Government reform – including recognising children as victims of domestic abuse
  5. Review by the judiciary
  6. Other sources of information and advice
  7. Other Library briefings on private child law and related topics: including:
  • Children: parental responsibility – how it’s gained and lost, and restrictions (England and Wales)
  • Children: child arrangements orders – when agreement cannot be reached on contact and residence (Great Britain)
  • Children: child arrangements orders – grandparents and court orders for contact with grandchildren (Great Britain)
  • Children: parental alienation and the role of Cafcass (England)
  • Confidentiality and openness in the family courts: current rules and history of their reform (England and Wales)
  • International child abduction – preventing abduction and recovering children (England and Wales)

More info at

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