Update on Family Court’s Approach to Domestic Abuse

By Adam Dunkley


The Court of Appeal has published its judgment after hearing four linked appeals relating to family proceedings involving the welfare of children.

The decision comes months after Mr Justice Hayden’s comments in F v M [2021] EWFC 4 in which the use of Scott Schedules were called into question when allegations are made of controlling and coercive behaviour in family law cases.

It was highlighted in both judgments that such behaviour is rarely defined as a one-off event, easily identified throughout a single course of conduct.

Instead, it often comprises regular and consistent behaviour over a long period of time. A Scott Schedule is a document that seeks to identify each allegation. When an applicant fills out their application, the form (C1A) gives them five lines in which to set out each allegation. Clearly there would be challenges and pitfalls when condensing delicate issues into five limited boxes.

The court concluded that instead of relying on Scott Schedules, parties be given leave to file short statements or present brief oral evidence at a preliminary hearing, setting out the alleged abuse and how it has affected them.

The court may then make findings as to what injury was caused, rather than spending time analysing each alleged incident. This would move procedures away from those adopted in criminal cases and instead have proper regard for the nature of domestic abuse in children and family cases.

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