The Role of Family Courts in Domestic Abuse Situations

The Role of Family Courts in Domestic Abuse Situations

The Role of Family Courts in Domestic Abuse Situations

Domestic abuse, in any form, is a terrible experience. While moving away from such a situation and seeking legal support with divorce proceedings, and child custody matters are vital, it can be a significant challenge for abuse survivors.

Tackling the court system, potentially fearing a confrontation with an abusive ex-partner, and the need to ensure a safe future for children can all add a substantial weight of stress.

Firstly, we are here to help. Elaine Parkes Solicitors are experts in every aspect of family law and can provide confidential advice to ensure you get the support you need.

From emergency injunctions to safeguarding your home, there are very many ways to protect yourself and your children, with Legal Aid available to assist in covering any associated legal costs.

It is essential to know how the family courts can help and what resources they offer to support domestic abuse victims. While court proceedings can be daunting, the process is there to formalise your protection and rights, with the backing of the legal system to enforce any rulings passed down by a judge.

Here we have summarised what options you have to move on from an abusive relationship, and how the UK courts can help you navigate the process successfully.

For more information and a private discussion about the best route for you, please do get in touch with our Hastings or Brighton teams covering much of West and East Sussex.

How the Domestic Abuse Bill Has Changed the Court Experience

The Domestic Abuse Bill is part of a significant overhaul of the family court system. It seeks to address imbalances that have previously made court proceedings challenging for domestic abuse victims.

Examples of reforms include:

  • Improved barring order systems, empowering judges to prevent abusers from protracting the court process and forcing victims to keep attending further hearings.
  • Increased protection for victims to avoid confrontations, including separate entrances to the court building, and protective screens.
  • The recognition that abuse is not only physical but can include emotional abuse, coercion, economic abuse and controlling behaviours – all of which are treated equally seriously.
  • Prevention of cross-examination of victims by perpetrators of abuse.
  • Inclusion of domestic abuse protections for victims outside of cohabiting scenarios – such as family members and ex-partners who were not living together when the abuse occurred.

In the interest of supporting victims in expediting the court process, judges have been awarded greater powers. That includes the ability to prevent aggressive questioning, to prevent re-victimising by exposing abuse sufferers to unnecessary stress.

Initially, such changes will be introduced as a pilot scheme, with judges encouraged to intervene when they deem it necessary, and control lines of enquiry.

These changes are vital to supporting domestic abuse survivors and ensuring that hearings – whether criminal or relating to matters of family law – have a successful outcome without creating further trauma.

Many family matters where there has been an instance, or instances of domestic abuse, require interventions from Cafcass, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

If I Divorce an Abusive Spouse, Will I Have to Confront Them in Court?

In short, no, you can proceed with a divorce, or a child custody hearing, for example, without having to confront an abusive ex-partner directly. Courts are there to hear a case and pass a decision, and must not expose domestic abuse victims to further potential harm.

Given changes to court hearing formats, and the introduction of video conferencing hearings where in-person proceedings are not possible, the family courts’ capacity to facilitate remote hearings has vastly improved.

In November 2020, the Family Justice Council published a guide outlining how remote hearings and hybrid hearings (where there is a mixture of in-person and remote hearings) should be held.

There are many different options, the most suitable of which will depend on the circumstances and what sort of case is being heard, by which part of the court system.

  • Child safety is paramount, and consideration must be made to what information a child might be exposed to – for example, if a parent is recounting an abusive situation.
  • Video conferencing may be blurred to disguise the background from an abuser.
  • Vulnerable people may be allowed to join remote hearings via audio-only, and are not required to give evidence or attend via live video stream where this poses an issue.
  • Solicitors or lawyers may host video hearings from a neutral, safe space rather than attending from a private home.
  • Hybrid hearings can include the victim and their legal representation in the courtroom, with the abuser attending via a remote link – this is essential where the court does not have the facilities for separate entrances, waiting rooms and screens to protect the victim.

If you have suffered domestic abuse, and wish to explore the options to safeguard you during a family court hearing, do get in touch with our teams. There are many ways to protect your privacy and well-being, and the Elaine Parkes Solicitors experts can support you in implementing these measures.

Should you be concerned about forthcoming legal proceedings, and potential exposure to conflict due to an abusive situation, there is help available to keep you safe.

How Can Cafcass Help in a Domestic Abuse Situation?

Cafcass represents the interests of children in family courts and can decide what actions are necessary to protect young people’s interests.

They are an independent organisation, and work with, although separately from, the courts, health authorities and social services.

In some cases, the family court may ask Cafcass to assess a situation, which might involve interviewing both parents and children. There is a specific framework that Cafcass follows where domestic abuse has occurred or is suspected.

Family courts hear cases relating to matters such as child custody, adoptions, injunctions, and divorce proceedings, and Cafcass helps children through the process, often appointing a Family Court Advisor to assist.

If you are facing a legal situation with an abusive ex-partner or would like help navigating the family courts, Cafcass can provide support to alleviate any pressures and ensure your children are safeguarded throughout.

For more information and guidance about family court hearings, legal support following a domestic abuse situation, and professional advice to secure a successful outcome for you and your family, get in touch to arrange a good time to talk.

Harassment in the Workplace

Harassment in the Workplace

HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

At Elaine Parkes we understand that employment law issues can be very sensitive and a stressful process for victims, we always aim to establish a resolution through non-adversarial means, such as mediation. Our experienced Employment Law Solicitors have put together a guide on harassment in the workplace and what you should do if you are a victim of harassment.

Your employer is required by law to protect you from any form of discrimination that you could face during working hours. Discrimination can have a detrimental effect on the work place environment and should never be overlooked.

The Equality Act 2010, protects employees from being harassed by their employer, colleagues and customers of the organisation.

The nine protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race, colour, ethnic or national origin
  • Religion and belief

Your employer should have a policy that explains that they have zero tolerance as an organisation for harassment and bullying. It should also clarify what you need to do in the event of needing to make a harassment complaint.

Common workplace harassment examples include:

  • Spreading rumours.
  • Insults, pranks, jokes, and teasing.
  • Flags and emblems that are offensive.
  • Unwelcome sexual advances.
  • Undermining a competent employee with criticism on a continuous basis.
  • Offensive emails, tweets, and social networking interactions.

If you are being bullied or harassed, you should aim to try to resolve the problem informally in the first instance, having a discussion with the harasser (with someone else present) could be all that’s needed. Keep a copy of all the correspondence and dates you send and receive from the harasser.

If you find the harassment doesn’t stop or your employer doesn’t take your complaint seriously, you should make a formal complaint or raise a grievance. Your employer may offer workplace mediation. If your problem isn’t resolved after this, you can make a harassment claim in the employment tribunal under the Equality Act. You need to make sure:

  • the behaviour counts as unlawful harassment under the Act, and
  • you’re within the 3 months’ less one day time limit for making your claim.

The Employment Tribunal can make a declaration as to your rights, award damages for unlawful discrimination, or make a recommendation.

An Employment Law Solicitor can explain the legal rights you have and where necessary what action to take.

If you feel you have been bullied or harassed at work, contact our Employment Law Solicitors to determine whether you can take legal action to assist in resolving the issues you have faced.

If you need help with employment law, contact Elaine Parkes on 01424 883183

Flexible Working – No More 9-5?

Flexible Working – No More 9-5?

FLEXIBLE WORKING- NO MORE 9-5?

Interested in working in a way that suits you? You may want to consider flexible working.

YouGov recently conducted a survey which has discovered that 6% of people in the UK still work a traditional ‘9am to 5pm’ working day, 66% of people surveyed said that they would prefer to start and finish earlier.

Flexible working is a way for employees to work in a way that suits them and meets their needs. Flexible working is any type of working that is different to the standard 9-5 working day, this could involve different working times, working from home or even changing to job sharing.

If you’re an employee and have worked with the same employer for 26 weeks or more you’re entitled to make a flexible working request. There is no right to flexible working, but you can be considered for it.

How to request flexible working

There will be a procedure that you have to follow when putting in your request.  To start with, you’ll have to write your employer a letter/email, employers are allowed to take up to three months to respond to your request. You’re only able to make one working request each year.

In order to assist your case and make it more likely that the employer will agree to accepting your request, it may be helpful to explain the proposed new working arrangements, although it is not a legal requirement to state why you want flexible working hours. However, it will help to provide a solution, for example, if you want to work less hours suggest how you’ll reorganise the work load.

Refusal of flexible working

Employers must consider all working requests within 3 months unless you’ve agreed to a longer time frame. Your employer can reject flexible working requests for a number of reasons such as:

  • planned structural changes to the business
  • unable to reorganise work amongst existing staff
  • unable recruit additional staff
  • detrimental impact on quality/performance
  • detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
  • burden of additional costs on the business.

If your employer turns down your request for flexible working, they should give you a good explanation of why they have made this decision, the reason should not be discriminatory.

Your employer should allow a right of appeal as part of the procedure.

If your request is denied and you and your employer can’t reach a compromise, there are a number of different options if you want to take things further including:

  • contacting ACAS or using alternative dispute resolution
  • raising a grievance via your employer’s grievance procedure
  • bringing a claim to an employment tribunal if certain circumstances apply
  • brining a discrimination claim
  • resigning and claiming constructive dismissal.

If you need employment-related advice, contact Elaine Parkes Solicitors on 01424 883183

New Year, New Team

New Year, New Team

New Year, New Team

During this year at Elaine Parkes Solicitors, there have been a few staff developments and due to our expanding client base, these will continue into 2021

We say a fond farewell to Elaine Parkes herself who is retiring from the company to concentrate on her role as Deputy District Judge and her gold handicap. Happy Retirement, Elaine!

We also be saying farewell to Martin Chambers, whose locum contract has to come to completion. He has been assisting with Divorce and Financial matters for both Elaine Parkes Solicitors Ltd and The Law Firm Group Ltd and his calm demeanour and wealth of experience has been a valuable asset to both firms. 

We welcome Bruce Jackson, who will be leading our Divorce, Finances and Private Child Arrangements Team from January 2021. Bruce has many years’ experience dealing with family and Children Law matters. Bruce’s advocacy experience is excellent and is one of his greatest strengths when dealing with family matters.

We also welcome Charlotte Hustwayte, who will be joining Bruce in our Divorce, Finances and Private Child Arrangements Team from January 2021. Charlotte has experience with all family matters, including cases which involve domestic abuse and require protective orders, such as Non Molestation Orders and Occupation Orders, disputes which affect children, and disputes arising from the breakdown of a relationship, whether married or not.

As many of you will already be aware, in October 2020 we welcomed Sussie Ross who is currently leading our Care and Legally Aided Matter Team. Sussie’s Team consists of Mary Enang and Miriam Yousaf who, between them, have a wealth of experience in this sector, including accreditations from the Family Law Panel and Children Law Panel.

Due to our continued growth, we will be recruiting more staff in the New Year to enable us to continue to provide our clients with our SQM and Lexcel accredited services. 

Appointments Now Available in Our Tunbridge Wells Office

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