Coercive control and children’s welfare in Re H-N and Others – Family Law

‘When families come to strife, arrangements must be made for the future care of any children. In some circumstances, this means an application to the courts. These “private law orders” can form part of a consent order, as in Re B-B. Others, are made under Sections 8(1)(a)-(b) and 9 of the Children Act 1989 specifying powers, amongst other things, to decide with whom a child is to live and when a child is to have contact. In 2019-2020, around 22,000 such applications were made involving some allegation of domestic abuse by one adult against another (para 3) with instances of domestic abuse rising because of Covid-19 (ONS, 2020). Consequently, the question of how allegations of abuse within family proceedings remains an urgent matter of concern. However, despite increasing recognition of coercive control as being central to understanding domestic abuse, it remains less well understood in the context of proceedings related to the future care of children. As explained by the Harm Panel in its Report: the approach to such allegations is “implemented inconsistently” and is “not effective” in its principal purpose of protecting victims (Harm Panel (2020) 7.1).’

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Family Law, 7th May 2021