Most legal professionals felt the lower courts, where most cases are heard, are particularly letting down victims of domestic abuse and their children. Four out of five lawyers said magistrates have a poor or very poor understanding of domestic abuse and coercive control. One in three said District Judges also have a poor or very poor understanding of these issues.
More than 2,000 parents felt the judge was actively hostile towards them. More than 70% of both mothers and fathers were unhappy with the outcome. Sixty-seven per cent agreed or strongly agreed that their children’s mental health had been affected by family court proceedings.
Cases take on average 18 months to complete, with one in 10 lasting more than five years. The average cost of proceedings is about £13,000, though one in 20 said they had spent more than £100,000.
“It is essential family court judges, magistrates, professionals and experts have full, trauma-informed training on domestic abuse, as recommended by the Ministry of Justice Harm Panel, and are alive to the tactical use of accusations of parental alienation,” said Dr Barnett.
Fronted by journalist Louise Tickle, who has fought for transparency in the family courts for longer than five years, ‘Torn Apart – Family Courts Uncovered’ airs this evening (Tuesday 20th July) on Channel 4’s Dispatches at 10 pm. Dr Barnett’s full final report publishes later this year. Read her interim report here.