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‘We don’t know what it is we don’t know’: how austerity has undermined the courts’ access to information in child arrangements cases involving domestic abuse

Harwood, Joanna (2019) '‘We don’t know what it is we don’t know’: how austerity has undermined the courts’ access to information in child arrangements cases involving domestic abuse.' Child and Family Law Quarterly, 31 (4). ISSN 0955-4475

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Abstract

This article explores the impact of austerity on child arrangements disputes in which domestic abuse is alleged, arguing that financial tensions have created an environment in which there is a high risk of unsafe contact arrangements being made. The article presents a sub-set of findings from the first major empirical study to have consulted the key professional actors on practice within child arrangements disputes involving domestic abuse since the enactment of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). The study involved 41 semi-structured interviews with judges, barristers, solicitors, Cafcass practitioners and domestic abuse organisations, and provides empirical insight into the worrying impact of financial tensions on the three principal sources of information to the court: litigants, Cafcass and experts. It critiques the effect of austerity-driven changes, such as the accessibility of legal aid, the problematic nature of cross-examination and the adaptability of the judicial role. It documents how both the quantity and quality of information available to the courts have been undermined, which matters as the courts cannot assess properly the risks and benefits of contact without robust information. It also addresses the inadequacies of recent Government responses to the problems caused by LASPO.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Child arrangements orders, domestic abuse, austerity, legal aid, Cafcass, expert evidence
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Law, School of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2019 16:40
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2020 13:15
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/25842

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