What is the Domestic Abuse Act 2021?

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Unfortunately, allegations of domestic abuse are common in family proceedings. Any such allegations should be taken seriously, particularly in cases concerning children. The new Domestic Abuse Act 2021 provides further legal protections for victims of domestic abuse. Cases where allegations of domestic abuse are made can be complex, therefore legal advice should be taken at the first possible opportunity. A specialist family lawyer will also be able to advise on how the Domestic Abuse Act may affect your case.

What changes does the Domestic Abuse Act make to the legal definition of domestic abuse?

The Act provides a definition of domestic abuse. This definition makes clear that domestic abuse is not just physical violence. Other types of abuse include:

  • Emotional abuse
  • Controlling or coercive behaviour
  • Economic or financial abuse

What changes does the Domestic Abuse Act make to the Family Court process?

At a final hearing in any legal proceedings, there will typically be cross-examination. This is a process in which one party’s lawyer asks questions of the other party. These questions will present their client’s case. Where a party does not have a lawyer, the presumption would be that they cross-examine the other party themselves. However, there has long been concern that this results in unrepresented perpetrators of domestic violence cross-examining their victims. Such cross-examination could be a way of perpetuating further abuse. Under the new Act, alleged perpetrators of abuse will be prevented from cross-examining their alleged victim in person.

The Act also creates a presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in court. Special measures are practical measures which seek to ensure that victims of domestic abuse are protected during the court process. Possible special measures include a screen between the parties in the courtroom.

What other changes does the Domestic Abuse Act make?

There are a large number of changes which the Act makes to the law on domestic abuse. This article focuses only on some key changes impacting family proceedings.

The Act changes the powers which the court has in cases involving domestic abuse. It provides for the new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order. It also clarifies the circumstances in which a court may prevent further applications to the court. This recognises that repeat applications can be against a child’s welfare interests and represent a form of abuse in themselves. If you consider these issues may apply to your case do seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

Here to Help

If you need advice on any divorce or family matter, please get in touch with Tracey Dargan, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce.

Please note the contents of this article are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.