In 2020, a Ministry of Justice expert panel, the Harm Panel, published a report revealing that the family court system was seriously failing and creating further harm and trauma for women and children in private law proceedings. The government responded by publishing an implementation plan.
This report reveals that despite some progress, not enough work has been done towards the transformed system that the Harm Panel recommended, and there is evidence of progress stalling, even reversing. Domestic abuse survivors and support workers told Women’s Aid that they have continued to be disbelieved, children have continued to be forced into unsafe contact arrangements with abusive parents, and perpetrators have continued to use child arrangement proceedings as a form of post-separation abuse. On top of this, survivors and professionals reported that family court professionals have not been held accountable for their poor decision-making and the trauma it has caused.
- All of the survivors contributing to our report felt that their children’s thoughts, wishes or feelings had not been listened to or acted upon;
- An underlying culture of misogyny, mother-blaming and victim-blaming continues in the family courts;
- Women continue to be accused of “parental alienation” when they raise valid concerns around domestic abuse and child safety;
- Family court proceedings continue to be trauma-inducing, rather than trauma-aware.