Fathers group criticises domestic violence study

By Nina Jacobs

| 28 July 2017

A group representing fathers has criticised a study that identifies domestic violence as a factor in the majority of applications for contact with a child heard in the family courts.

A study has found that nearly two thirds of of applications relating to where a child should live or spend time involve allegations of domestic abuse. Illustration: Ben Tallon

Earlier this week, CYP Now reported that research published jointly by Women's Aid and Cafcass found that 62 per cent of applications relating to where a child should live or spend time involved domestic abuse as a risk factor.

However, charity Families Needs Fathers has described the report as a "one-sided publication that is clearly intended to influence practice in the family courts", pointing to the fact that Women's Aid primarily campaigns against domestic violence committed against women and girls.

It added that the report focuses on allegations of abuse "rather than reality", and claimed that it is experiencing a rise in reports of unfounded allegations.

Cafcass has strongly refuted claims that the report is biased.

A statement issued by Families Need Fathers, said: "Organisations that primarily support men have been raising concerns about the prevalence of unfounded and, increasingly often, malicious allegations, made in the family court and a complete lack of any form of deterrent or consequence for making such claims - despite these technically being a criminal offence of ‘perverting the course of justice' - a serious offence carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment."

Families Need Fathers added that unfounded allegations were resulting in children being "denied time with their dads for many months".

It also stated that the findings promoted the belief that "fathers are too dangerous to be trusted with their own children".

A Cafcass spokeswoman said: "We undertook this work with Women's Aid following the release of their Nineteen Child Homicides report and recommendations for the family justice system.

"We wanted to explore, the nature of domestic abuse allegations within the family court, particularly how this can affect children.

"The report is gender-neutral, with the data showing where allegations of domestic abuse have been made by men and women. We meet regularly with Families Need Fathers and Men's Aid and are even handed when working with organisations who focus on the needs of particular groups. We have always recognised that men can be victims of domestic abuse.

"The study was not designed to make findings on allegations of domestic abuse, but to capture their prevalence, how these cases were assessed and outcomes. The research illustrates the complexity of responding to allegations within proceedings. We hope the report can act as a platform from which we and others can further understand and define the issues, and we encourage further research on this."

The study, which looked at more than 200 child arrangement orders relating to where a child should live or spend time, found that 62 per cent of such applications involved domestic abuse as a risk factor.

It was also revealed that of the cases with domestic abuse allegations, nearly 90 per cent also involved other safeguarding concerns such as substance abuse or mental health problems.

The report stated that sample cases in the research unveiled a "complex picture of domestic abuse within family proceedings" which meant that it was uncommon for domestic abuse allegations to feature in isolation from other safeguarding concerns.

"This demonstrates the substantial challenge for courts in determining which cases can safely proceed to contact with the child," the report said.

One of the study's significant findings was that fathers were three times more likely to be the subject of domestic abuse allegations than mothers.

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