An assessment of the efficacy of the British family courts in ensuring safe processes for survivors of domestic abuse in determining child arrangement

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Southampton

In Collaboration With

Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire

Principal Researcher

Rachel Vincent

Level of Research


Project Start Date

January 2020

Research Context

​The family courts have recently received significant negative media attention in relation to their handling of child arrangement cases where there are allegations of domestic abuse. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women who find themselves in this situation often feel that the family court context exposes them to re-traumatisation for numerous reasons, perhaps demonstrating the notion that current family court processes are not fit for purpose. This concept has been reinforced by a recent government review (All Party Parliamentary Group, 2018).

The objective of this study is therefore to review current processes within the family court in ensuring the safety of survivors of domestic abuse while settling child arrangements where the father is the perpetrator (from the perspective of professionals)

Specific focus will be on:

  • Understanding professionals' conceptualisation of domestic abuse, and it's relevance to child contact
  • Assessing the efficacy of the implementation of PD12J (and it's tensions with the Children's Act 1989)

The ultimate goal of this piece of research will be to make recommendations regarding current processes so as to ensure maximum protection for survivors of domestic abuse who find themselves in the family court under PD12J, and their children.

Research Methodology

  • ​Semi-structured, in-depth interviews and focus groups with professionals experienced in a Family Court context
  • Thematic analysis of data

Date due for completion

September 2020
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