Skip to main content

Domestic Violence

Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Department for Constitutional Affairs when the new forms, devised by the Safety Stakeholder Group of his Department, screening Children's Act cases for domestic violence will be brought into use; and what steps are being taken prior to the forms' introduction to ensure that relevant issues of domestic violence are brought to the attention of the court; [130516](2)what factors have influenced the date of the introduction of the new domestic violence forms for use in Children Act 1989 cases. [130656]

[holding answer 16 September 2003]: I have been asked to reply.We want to encourage contact between children and their non-resident parent where it is in the best interests of the child and safe for all family members. We encourage parents who are divorcing or separating to agree contact arrangements for their children. Most

parents do agree such arrangements. Where the courts are asked to intervene, the Children Act 1989 makes the welfare of the child its paramount concern. The courts are required to consider any harm a child has suffered or is at risk of suffering when determining what, if any, contact order to make. The court is also obliged to make a finding of fact in any case involving allegations of violence. The court must determine whether or not the alleged violence has occurred and, if so, its impact on the child. This obligation is set out in best practice guidelines issued by the Children Act Sub-Committee to the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Board on Family Law in spring 2001. The impact of these guidelines is being evaluated.

The court may attach supervisory conditions to an order for contact that may be for indirect rather than direct contact. We are providing £2.5 million over the next three years from the Children's Fund to extend the provision of supervised contact.

Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 amended the Children Act 1989 to make it clear that when a court is considering whether a child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm, this harm includes harm a child may suffer as a result of witnessing the ill-treatment of another person. In addition the Safety Stakeholder Group has suggested revisions to the court forms used in applications for residence, contact, specific issues and prohibited steps to highlight allegations of domestic violence. This would enable domestic violence to be raised right at the beginning of proceedings and enable the judge more effectively to determine whether, and in what terms, any order should be made on the basis of all the available facts. The revised definition of harm and the changes to the court forms to highlight domestic violence will be implemented as soon as the necessary resources are identified.