Download the full outcome
Detail of outcome
This is the final report of the expert panel, which reflects the findings from the call for evidence, following over 1,200 responses from individuals and organisations across England and Wales, together with roundtables and focus groups held with professionals, parents and children with experience of the family courts. Most of the evidence received focused on domestic abuse.
This final report provides an understanding of how effectively the family courts identify and respond to allegations of domestic abuse and other serious offences, in cases involving disputes between parents about the arrangements for their children, known as ‘private law children proceedings’.
To aid in the panel’s research, the MOJ commissioned a review of the literature on the risk to children and parents involved in private law children cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences. It also aimed to review the literature on how these risks are managed by the family courts in England and Wales. The topics this review sought to address were:
- Children’s and parents’ experiences of domestic abuse.
- parents’ and children’s experiences of contact with perpetrators of domestic abuse.
- The response of courts and professionals to allegations of domestic abuse and to children’s participation in court decision-making
- The experiences and views of victim/survivors of domestic abuse and of children of family court proceedings
- The operation of Practice Direction 12J (PD12J) by courts and professionals
- The enforcement of contact orders
The government has published an Implementation Plan on behalf of the family justice system, detailing an initial system-wide response to the issues raised in the report, and the recommendations of the panel.
The Family Justice Board, comprised of senior leaders from across the Family Justice System and jointly chaired by MOJ and DfE ministers, will be tasked with overseeing delivery of this agenda and will publish a more detailed delivery plan later this year.
A progress update can be found in the document section of this page detailing the panel’s work to date and next steps.
The call for evidence will specifically focus on the application of Practice Direction 12J, Practice Direction 3AA, The Family Procedure Rules Part 3A, and s.91(14) orders, and will build a more detailed understanding of any harm caused to parents and/or children during or following private law children proceedings. The overarching aim of the call for evidence is to better understand how effectively the family courts respond to allegations of domestic abuse and other serious offences in private law children cases, having regard to both the process and outcomes for the parties and the children.
The panel would like to hear from people who have direct experience as parties in private law children cases, as well as from those who provide support services to parents involved in such cases, and from professionals who practise such cases.
The panel are particularly keen to receive evidence of any harm caused to children and/or parents during or following private law children proceedings, where there are allegations and/or evidence of domestic abuse or of other crimes creating a risk of harm to children or parents (such as child abuse, rape, sexual assault or murder).