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Title: Child arrangements orders (contact) and domestic abuse : an exploration of the law and practice
Author: Harwood, Jo
ISNI:       0000 0004 8509 9889
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores professional perceptions of court-adjudicated child contact disputes in cases of alleged, proven and found domestic abuse. For many years, there has been significant concern about the handling of these cases by the courts, the principal concern being that a pro-contact approach dominates, which serves in practice to marginalise concerns about safety and welfare. Despite changes to the key practice direction being introduced with the aim of improving practice, concerns about the courts’ resolution of these disputes is as live now as ever. There have also been significant statutory reforms in recent years, which post-date much existing research: a statutory presumption of parental involvement was introduced into the Children Act 1989; and legal aid reform fundamentally altered the landscape in which disputes over contact take place. There is little recent research in this area, with a particular gap in the evidence base on practitioners’ perceptions of current practice. This thesis responds to this gap. Thirty-eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with the key actors charged with working on contact disputes in which domestic abuse is an issue, consisting of judges (magistrate up to Circuit judge), barristers, solicitors and Cafcass practitioners. Three interviews were also conducted with representatives from organisations working with women affected by domestic abuse. This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by understanding judges’ and practitioners’ perspectives on current practice and what they see as the core challenges. The thesis explores the way in which domestic abuse is defined and evidenced in practice, along with associated structural challenges, and the outcomes reached by the courts in cases in which domestic abuse is proven or found. It also provides much-needed data on professional perceptions of the impact of the statutory presumption of parental involvement and the legal aid reforms. In some respects, the findings in this research point to improvements in practice, in particular in relation to judicial understanding of domestic abuse. Overall, however, the thesis concludes that ideological, structural and financial tensions undermine practice. Overcoming these tensions requires further research, with the key being to find creative solutions compatible with the current climate of scarce resources.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: KF England and Wales ; HQ The family. Marriage. Woman