Domestic Abuse and Child Contact: The Interface Between Criminal and Civil Proceedings

Scottish Civil Justice Hub Projects

Project Overview

This study set out to examine the operation of Scottish family law in child contact cases in the context of domestic abuse. The overall objective was to determine whether and how the interpretation and application of relevant civil law statutory provisions are informed by contemporary understandings of domestic abuse as enshrined in Scottish criminal law, with a view to providing useful research-based information to support considered thinking which, in turn, may enhance policy and practice work in this area.

The study reported in December 2022, with a set of eight key messages including finding a lack of mechanisms for information about domestic abuse to reach the civil courts in child contact cases and a lack of awareness among practitioners of how domestic abuse affects children.

Read more in the report or the executive summary. You can also read the press release accompanying the report launch.

In January 2024 the research team hosted a workshop with legal practitioners to look at the practicalities of implementing the report recommendations. You can look at the visual minutes of the workshop, which considered four priority recommendations from the report: 

Project Team Profiles

Links to profile pages on respective University websites:

Research Methods

The first phase of the research was an online survey with legal practitioners in November 2021, to gather experiences and views about the processes of child contact proceedings and their interface with criminal proceedings in the context of domestic abuse. The second phase of the research was semi-structured interviews with legal practitioners. These interviews built on the survey responses to explore in more depth the operation of child welfare hearings. We are extremely grateful to the legal professionals who have contributed their time to the survey and the interviews.

Project Funding

Funded by the Scottish Government.

Support Information

If you are affected by domestic abuse or by working on cases where domestic abuse is a factor, help and support is available.

Scotland’s domestic abuse and forced marriage helpline is open 24 hours for telephone, email or web chat support:

0800 027 1234

The Law Society of Scotland provides a range of online resources through LawScot Wellbeing including access to the LawCare helpline.

Project Outputs

In December 2021 the project team provided a short response to the Scottish Government call for evidence on Women in the Justice System – A Strategic Approach (PDF).

The project report was completed in December 2022. You can also read an executive summary of the report or the accompanying press release. 

A workshop with legal practitioners looking at implementation of the report recommendations took place in January 2024. You can look at the visual minutes for the whole workshop or individually for each recommendation discussed. 

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