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Domestic Abuse Commissioner Recommends Changes to Family Courts

08 August 2023

paper cut out of family in front of judges gavel

The family courts have been under scrutiny for many years, with campaigners pointing out that the system is often exploited by perpetrators and used as an arena to continue their abuse.

As part of her office’s work, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, has investigated survivors’ experiences of the family courts and released a report on the findings, detailing some key recommendations.

Family courts must be a safe and accessible space for survivors, and we feel that the recommendations set out by the Commissioner will help to achieve this.

Background & Findings

In 2020, the Government’s Harm Panel Report found that the family courts were not doing enough to protect survivors and proposed changes designed to create a safe environment.

Over the past few years, some progress has been made, particularly with the Domestic Abuse Act prohibiting perpetrators from cross-examining a survivor. Despite this, the feeling from many campaigners is that change has been quite slow in coming about – something that is backed up by the findings in the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Report.

Research with legal practitioners found that more than 80 percent of those surveyed felt that the Family Courts were likely to re-traumatise victims and survivors of domestic abuse.

The Commissioner also heard from victims and survivors who described how allegations of domestic abuse are minimised during proceedings. As well as this, the process often failed to hear the voice of the child, which should be central to the response.


The Domestic Abuse Commissioner laid out a series of recommendations to improve the family court system, including:

  • Extra funding to roll out the family courts monitoring mechanism across the country – this would capture more information and give a greater insight into the needs of survivors.
  • Funding for a “Best Practice Lead” in every family court area.
  • Increased funding for domestic abuse training.
  • Access to specialist domestic abuse support workers for all survivors – increased funding to recruit additional workers to meet demand.
  • Removing the means test for legal aid for all victims and survivors of domestic abuse going through private family law proceedings.
  • Greater transparency and consistency across the whole family justice system, so that a full culture-change programme of training on domestic abuse is provided.

If implemented, these recommendations will help to make the family courts a safer environment for survivors and hopefully encourage more people experiencing domestic abuse to come forward to access support.

The recommendations will be sent to the Government who will then respond to the report and outline what actions they plan to take from this.

We hope they choose to implement the measures set out in the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s report, which will make a big difference for survivors.