The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 and Family Court Proceedings

Over the last few years there have been some changes to Family Court Proceedings to improve the safeguarding of victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their children. These changes came about through the tireless campaigning of survivors and organisations who support them.

Since the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 became law, you can now expect to have improved protection from an abuser in Family Court.

The Act sets out a statutory definition of domestic abuse. This is helpful in Family Court proceedings as the new definition recognises that domestic abuse can continue after you have separated from the abuser by setting out the definition of domestic abuse as between people who are ‘personally connected’ to include:

  • Are or have been married/in a civil partnership (or have agreed to marry/enter into a civil partnership)
  • Are or have been in an intimate personal relationship
  • Have or have had a parental relationship with the same child
  • Are relatives

It also defines the types of abuse:

  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Violent or threatening behaviour
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour
  • Economic abuse
  • Psychological, emotional or other abuse

Finally, it recognises children as victims if a child:

  • (a) sees or hears, or experiences the effects of, the abuse, and
  • (b) is related to [person who perpetrates abuse] or [abused person].

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 also sets out that victims of domestic abuse will be considered vulnerable and automatically able to get additional support to help them to feel safer in court.

In addition, you should not be directly questioned by your abuser (cross examination). If domestic abuse has been alleged the Judge can appoint a Qualified Legal Representative (QLR) to help with the questions. If a QLR is not available the Judge should help with cross examination.

Finally, the Act makes it clear that the Family Court can make Barring orders (section 91(14) orders), to prevent ongoing abuse through the courts, where the child or another individual would be at risk of harm if further applications were made to the Family Court. However, appeals can be made against Barring orders.