Domestic violence is the most common welfare issue raised in private law contact proceedings. A wide range of studies have shown that judicial decisions about contact which fail to take safety into account endanger women and children physically and emotionally. Yet a presumption that contact is in the best interests of the child, combined with an increasing focus on fathers’ rights, casts long shadows over legal judgments, policy frameworks and individual cases. This article presents research which examined child contact proceedings as a legal process to identify if, how and when domestic violence was factored into judicial decision making. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 34 women who had recently completed, or were currently undergoing, proceedings, the article highlights how two aspects of private law Children Act proceedings diminished women’s safety: the absence of special facilities in family courts and gaps in legal representation for both victim-survivors and perpetrators.

“Its like going through the abuse again”: domestic violence and women and children's (un)safety in private law contact proceedings

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