What family lawyers were talking about this week…

Children|Family|Industry News|January 3rd 2014

Well, the last two weeks, actually.

As one would expect, there has not been a lot of family law news over the Xmas and New Year period, but it hasn’t all been parties and presents.

The agenda may have been limited, but domestic violence has been high on the list, with three different stories.

First came the news of a study by Citizens Advice which suggested that more than half a million victims of domestic abuse are too terrified to come forward and report their experiences. The figure came from a pilot project carried out by Citizens Advice in nine areas across the UK, in which clients were asked a series of routine questions when seeking help with issues such as debt and housing problems. The project found that 27 per cent had experienced domestic abuse at some time since the age of 16, 3 per cent higher than the national average reported for women. If this result is extrapolated across the UK, it is believed that there could be up to 540,000 more victims of domestic abuse than previously thought.

Next came the news that MPs from all parties are backing a tough ‘US-style’ law that would make domestic abuse a specific offence carrying a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. At present there is no specific criminal offence of domestic abuse, with offences such as assault being used instead. It is thought that in many cases the police, courts and prosecutors fail to take into account the previous abusive behaviour of an offender. The new offence would address this by making sentences reflect whether domestic abuse, both physical and psychological, was part of a pattern of behaviour.

Lastly came the depressing but not exactly surprising story of a Christmas ‘spike’ in domestic violence cases, a phenomenon reported to be keeping courts busy on New Year’s Eve. The story related to a court in Manchester, but the goings-on there were no doubt repeated across the country, as they are every year. The spike is thought to be down to: “Tensions over money and unrealistic expectations about having the “perfect” Christmas, combined with excessive alcohol, consumed in an enclosed space”.

Moving on to other topics, on Xmas Eve the Department for Education announced an extra £50 million funding “for councils as they prepare to implement reforms and work with voluntary adoption agencies – and each other – to recruit more adopters for the 6,000 children waiting for a loving home”. Also announced were new interactive maps “to help would-be adopters find out more about agencies in their area and across the country, help them make an informed choice based on performance and help them access the most appropriate recruitment agency for them – wherever it may be.”

And then there was the report by online parenting organisation Netmums, examining the impact of divorce upon children. The headline finding of the report, which involved surveying 1000 parents and 100 children, was that parents were ‘in denial’ of the effect of their divorce upon their children. In particular, 77 per cent of separated couples thought that their children had coped well, but only 18 per cent of children were happy that their parents were no longer together. Is this surprising?

John Bolch often wonders how he ever became a family lawyer. He no longer practises, but has instead earned a reputation as one of the UK's best-known family law bloggers.

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  1. Luke says:

    It’s amazing how the assumption on Domestic Violence is STILL that it is all done by men – almost every utterance on this subject seems to be this way despite the fact that we know that it is untrue.

    I really didn’t think this bias would still be going on.

  2. Tristan says:

    Domestic violence is a way of life in rougher sections of society which is why social workers prefer meddling in private law disputes between middle class parents where they can side with the mother and finger the father as an abuser. Rather a comfortable afternoon’s work on a ‘multi-agency’ with a equally lazy police officer in tow trying to ‘out’ an innocent father who’s had false allegations made against him by his ex-partner, than having to dive into a sink estate to save some poor soul of a baby being thrown at a wall by violent drug addicts posing as parents.

    Domestic violence is not in the main, an issue in private law disputes between separating middle class couples who are arguing over their children despite what one party may conveniently claim. Were that the case, the agencies would have been engaged and the evidence already available through public law channels, social services and criminal justice in particular. Non-molestation orders are a particularly bad joke, brought largely at the expense of naive, unsuspecting fathers who aren’t savvy enough to keep their noses clean from the unscrupulous endeavours of opposing solicitors, including Resolution members, or their female clients.

    Public law cases are by contrast, characterised by every horror imaginable and more besides probably. Here domestic violence is a very way of life. Never confuse one form of life with the other.

  3. Rachael says:

    It’s appalling isn’t it? I believe the latest stats are 1 in 4 victims of DV are now male and there is only one refuge for males only. Very sad state of affairs…..

  4. Luke says:

    “1 in 4 victims of DV are now male”
    It’s actually 1 in 2, more women end up dying because when men lose their temper they are stronger and so the damage is greater. I am not playing down domestic violence by men – there are some monsters out there – but it’s not a one way street.

  5. Tristan says:

    And probably half a million children or more to add to the list, alienated from their fathers and not wanting him around. Of course, those numbers must remain hidden. One can only admit to a spot or two of ‘implacable hostility’ or ‘parental manipulation’ as the otherwise esteemed Mrs Justice Parker, would have it, to neatly pigeon-holed the condition of alienation as rare or unusual and thus not of everyday concern to the courts. Nothing like defining a condition as essentially non-existent, is there?

  6. Johnde says:

    If you want to find the true prevalence of a condition then the gold standard method is by doing an anonymous community survey. In Scotland we are really fortunate to have a Crime and Justice survey. This found that 5% of women and 5.3% of men had been subjected to domestic abuse in the preceding year.
    Speaking for myself I stayed in a unilaterally abusive relationship longer than I might have because I rightly feared that my children would continue to be used as a tool of domestic abuse for years afterwards.

  7. Anon says:

    A lot of females exposed to domestic abuse wouldn’t have the energy to even read these blogs, let alone respond to them.
    You are blessed to have the thinking space to be able to defend yourselves, lonesome complaining males.
    Your ex partners are probably caring for your children on a half penny per week, in some slum!!
    Only Joking, but do you get the picture!!!

  8. Stitchedup says:

    johnde, I agree with your comments. Unfortunately, politicians, feminist organistions and much of the legal profession, including the DPP, are wholly complicit in allowing false allegations of DV to be used against Men as part of the gamesmanship of divorce and separation. They then point to the number of men convicted of Domestic violence and compare it with the relatively small number of women convicted and cite this as “evidence” that DV is mainly a man on woman issue. You also have to take into consideration that many men with DV convictions have not engaged in any physical violence whatsoever, just fallen foul of a non communication order as part of an ex-parte non mol secured in the civil courts on the balance of probability on the basis of a signed affidavit containing phony allegations of domestic abuse or harrassment.

  9. Tristan says:

    Point taken, Anon. And, yes, it is salutary to be reminded that she’s slaving away with the kids on tuppence a week. Problem is, she won’t take up my offer of relief duties. I have to content myself with doing her shopping, either in person or online (and pay for it!), stick petrol in her car, wash it too sometimes, do her washing up as well in exchange for her letting me see the kids briefly on the stairs to say goodnight before they go up and off to bed, listen to her moaning and run umpteen other weekly errands for her because she, the kids or nan have forgotten or want, this or that, all of which are chores and none of which brings me any real access to my children. Such is life when you’re a separated dad. You know, the odd bone gets tossed out and you’re only too grateful for an occasional gnaw. It’s a dog’s life.

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