Weekly Family Law Update March 8, 2021

Financial Remedies Courts and domestic abuse

Financial Remedies Courts roll-out completed

The President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane has announced that the roll-out of the new specialist Financial Remedies Courts (‘FRCs’) has been completed across England and Wales.

The courts were first proposed in 2016, after which a pilot scheme was set up to test them out. The pilot has now been successfully completed, and the President says that the FRCs should henceforth be regarded as an established and permanent part of the Family Court.

The FRCs will deal with all financial remedy applications, including those arising from divorce and claims for financial provision for children (excluding child maintenance, which are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service).

FRCs have their own procedures to ensure that cases run smoothly. They also have specialist judges who are experienced in this type of work, which should mean better and more consistent outcomes across the country.

Disabled people more likely to experience domestic abuse

Disabled people were nearly three times more likely to have experienced domestic abuse last year than non-disabled people, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’).

In the year ending March 2020, around 1 in 7 (14.3%) disabled people aged 16 to 59 years experienced any form of domestic abuse in England and Wales, significantly higher when compared with 1 in 20 (5.1%) for non-disabled people of the same age.

Disabled women were more than twice as likely to experience domestic abuse (17.5%) as non-disabled women (6.7%), a significant difference. While disabled men were significantly less likely to experience domestic abuse than disabled women (9.2%), they were more than twice as likely to have experienced domestic abuse as non-disabled men (3.6%), a significant difference.

Disabled people were significantly more likely to experience domestic abuse than non-disabled people, regardless of age. Disabled people aged 16 to 24 years were almost three times more likely to have experienced any form of domestic abuse in the last year (19.5%) than non-disabled people of the same age (7.3%).

Josephine Foubert, of the Census and disability analysis team at the ONS, commented: “An important part of ONS’s work is to identify inequalities in society. As today’s findings show, there are some stark differences between the experience of disabled and non-disabled people, from education and work to the experience of crime, including domestic abuse.”

Further protections added to Domestic Abuse Bill

The Government has announced that a raft of new amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill will be presented this week, providing greater protections for victims and further clamping down on perpetrators.

The proposals include making non-fatal strangulation a specific criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in prison. The act typically involves an abuser strangling or intentionally affecting their victim’s breathing in an attempt to control or intimidate them.

The Government will also strengthen legislation around controlling or coercive behaviour, no longer making it a requirement for abusers and victims to live together. The change follows a government review which highlighted that those who leave abusive ex-partners can often be subjected to sustained or increased controlling or coercive behaviour post-separation.

Meanwhile, so-called ‘revenge porn’ laws – introduced by the government in 2015 – will be widened to include threats to disclose intimate images with the intention to cause distress. More than 900 abusers have been convicted since revenge porn was outlawed but Ministers are determined to further protect victims, with those who threaten to share such images facing up to two years behind bars.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said:

“This Bill provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen our response to domestic abuse and its many forms.

“From outlawing non-fatal strangulation to giving better protections in court – we are delivering the support victims need to feel safer while ensuring perpetrators face justice for the torment they have inflicted.”