Sarah Morgan QC, for activist group Families Need Fathers, said: ‘The word “parent” has seldom been heard at this hearing in the last two days. There remains a rather gendered flavour to the debate… It needs to be recognised that often victims of domestic abuse are indeed mothers of those children. But sometimes they are not. Often, perpetrators of domestic abuse, of coercive control, are the children’s fathers, but sometimes they are not.’
On allegations of coercive and controlling behaviour, Mills said: ‘The mischief that we are looking out for, that the court should be looking out for on coercive and controlling behaviour, is the power dynamic, the patterns of behaviour and the impact on the victim. Because that is not properly understood by the court.’
Teertha Gupta QC, representing one of the fathers, called for a rebuttable presumption. ‘The burden should be on the accuser to rebut the presumption in favour of contact.’
The court’s judgment is likely to shape the family court’s approach for the next two decades. We will soon find out what that will look like.