A week in family law: The Domestic Abuse Bill and a shared parenting presumption

Family Law|June 21st 2019

Just two stories to mention this week, but I think you will agree that they are pretty important ones:

Firstly, as I reported here, the Joint Committee (of MPs and Members of the Lords) on the Draft Domestic Abuse Bill has published its report on the Bill, and called for it to be amended to give greater protection to victims of domestic abuse. The Committee recommend a number of changes to the Bill, which they say “are to ensure that all those affected by domestic abuse receive protection and a tailored response to their differing needs.” The Committee welcomed the proposed measures in the Bill, but was concerned with ensuring their effectiveness in practice. In particular it was concerned to ensure that children who experience domestic abuse, either as witnesses to it or in intimate relationships, are treated as victims and their needs responded to appropriately. Further, in recognition of the fact that survivors of abuse require different support services, the Committee recommended that the Bill should require public authorities to have regard to the gendered nature of abuse and provide suitable services accordingly. Commenting, Mrs Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Joint Committee, said: “The Government’s draft bill on Domestic Abuse has been widely welcomed by organisations representing survivors of Domestic Abuse and those providing support services. The Bill is the culmination of many months of work and consultation and has been said by the sector to be a ‘once in a generation opportunity to address domestic violence’ and having ‘the potential to create a step change in the national response’. The committee has made detailed and wide-ranging recommendations that affect many aspects of the Bill, drawing from the excellent evidence we have received including oral evidence from those who have survived domestic abuse themselves. These include important recommendation relating to the treatment of children and migrant women, the importance of cross-departmental working in prevention and early intervention and the need for Commissioners to be fully independent and have the powers they need to enforce improvements in the provision of services.” For a little more detail on the recommendations, see my post.

And secondly, as I also reported, here, the fathers’ rights group Families Need Fathers Both Parents Matter Cymru are calling for a shared parenting presumption in the law. The group commissioned a YouGov survey asking to what extent the respondents agreed with a proposal that the law should be reformed so that judges have a presumption in favour of ordering that children spend roughly equal time with each parent after a divorce or separation, excluding cases where children were deemed to be at risk. 80% of the respondents agreed, and the group said the survey supports the call for a change in the law to make it clearer what ‘normal’ should look like when parents split. This in some ways echoes the idea recently touted by the President of the Family Division that in order to manage their expectations parents involved in disputes over arrangements for their children be given an indication by the court at the outset of the case what the court would regard a reasonable amount or pattern of contact to be. The survey has apparently prompted Conservative MP Suella Braverman to renew her call for a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting in the law. She is quoted as saying: “Every child has a right to a meaningful relationship with both parents but at present the law does not make this clear. In the worst cases, “parental involvement” from divorce settlements can amount to little more than a birthday card, effectively airbrushing a non-resident parent from a child’s life.” She said that the court’s assessments of how much contact a child should have with a non-resident parent is often based on outdated views, and commented: “It is time the government exercises its potential to address the problem of children growing up in broken families and rectifies some of the serious injustices inherent in England’s current divorce law.” Hmm. Hopefully, any further discussion of this idea will not contain the obvious errors and/or misunderstandings of those statements…

Have a good weekend.

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.

Share This Post...

Leave a Reply

Close

Newsletter Sign Up

For all the latest news from Stowe Family law
please sign up for instant access today.



Privacy Policy