The family court should protect victims of domestic violence but often puts them at risk

I recently took part in a Channel 4 news investigation (see below) in relation to this issue which was prompted by the Eve’s Law campaign.  Eve is a survivor of domestic abuse who was facing the prospect of the civil court disclosing personal information which was likely to be disclosed to her violent ex-partner. Eve then mounted a campaign to change the law in this area.

I myself have seen many cases where the family courts disclose victims’ addresses or personal information to perpetrators of domestic violence.

One of the main causes is where a woman and the children flee the area to escape the abuser.  The perpetrator may report her missing to the police – the police shouldn’t disclose any information about her whereabouts other than to say that she is safe and they cannot disclose any other details.

If the perpetrator then issues proceedings for contact with the children this is where the risk of disclosure escalates.  The perpetrator obviously won’t mention the fact of the domestic violence in his application and the courts do not do the safeguarding checks with the police and social services straight away.  He will simply say that his ex has run off with the children for no apparent reason and he needs her address so that he can send courts papers to her. Generally the court will order that the benefits agency disclose the address as she will usually be claiming child benefit or tax credits at least.  The address should, in my view, remain confidential and the courts should send the papers to her without disclosing the address or even the area of the country to the perpetrator or his solicitor.  Unfortunately in the majority of cases this is not what happens – her address is given to the perpetrator or his solicitors putting the woman and children at great risk and often making them feel as though they have little choice but to move areas again which will unsettle the family and be frowned upon by the court.

The court local to the perpetrator will then also transfer the proceedings to the court nearest to where mum and the children are living so even where the precise address has stayed confidential the perpetrator will then know the town in which she is living so that he can start to hunt her down.

I often advise women to change their names after they have fled to make it more difficult to be found eg by the electoral register however time and time again CAFCASS or social services inadvertently let the new name slip at meetings or in reports within the court process which again puts the family at risk.

Often my advice to a woman who has fled the area is – do nothing. That way there is less chance of disclosures being made and the secrecy of a victim’s whereabouts is the best protection there is.

The Courts need to change their procedures so that information remains confidential until it can be established that it is safe and necessary to disclose before the current practise results in a fatality.

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  1. once
    a social worker deliberately lies to court and misrepresents situation,
    he spends the rest of the time manipulating others to let offender
    escape criminal actions and make mother watch her children suffer. its
    torture,its illegal but social workers in suffolk condone abuse and
    ignore mothers evidence to prove it happens. they ignore Stockholm
    syndrome in children and manipulate to cover sw mistake,again letting
    abuse continue and mother isolated by lies of sw,abuser and no help from
    police. hell is on earth. my ex has poison people in my family, me and
    my children kidnap by him. threats to kill my kids if he has to confess.
    what do i do? i can’t get help locally as corruption has shown me it

  2. law has guidelines to protect women and children in dv situations. the
    other sides of it too,is sw,s pull stunts and so do opposition lawyers.
    no refuse should be ordered to disclose. rubber stamping instead of
    reading and registering danger i would say is the main reason. judges
    are to complacent with believing sw,s and corrupt service providers.
    family courts are not dv courts and ignore abuse.

    1. I know that many refuges are concerned about being ordered to disclose their addresses to the court. The refuge needs to ensure that if they do disclose information this is kept confidential and isn’t passed on to the father or his lawyers

      I think there is still clearly a lack of awareness around domestic violence in the family courts and a need for more training

  3. hi i was wondering tomorrow i have a hearing for a injunction i got against one of my crazy neighbors .so i can be protected from her to keep my life safe as with my the mean time i found out today that she has her father in law as her lawyer.can her own father represent her in court and now does this mean that they will end the protection order i got out on her,is there a name for it like they all can be fabercating lies so the judge will end it.i didnt get a lawyer cause i am the victim.someone please help what you think my chances are in court and if the judge will take that into matter that they are being reprsented by a family member and that they al are in cahoots together

  4. Hi. I am a dv victim and me and my children were forced to move away to a refuge. We have been away from my violent ex for a little over 2 years. He has constantly broken harassment orders and non molestation orders but still nothing happened about it. Police have totally let me and my children down. I had my final court hearing last week and without hearing my evidence, the judge made the decision that my ex was to have the contact details for my daughters and my son’s school. We live a 4 minute walk from school and I am petrified he will find us. I have rang social services but they have no intention of getting back involved (they were only involved because of the violent relationship and they ended their involvement 2 months after I moved to the refuge). I really don’t know what I can do. My children have been traumatised enough. I’m not going to put them through that again. Not for anyone. Not even a judge

    1. Thanks for your comment, I have emailed you separately about your situation.

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