Once a relationship has ended in which there are children and domestic abuse has been a feature, a common ongoing form of abuse is the repeated attempts by a perpetrator to litigate against the victim.
Section 91(14) of the Children Act 1989 empowers the court to make an order that prevents further future applications for an order under the Children Act 1989, of any specified kind, being made by a person without leave of the court, known as a barring order. Whilst an order of this type is not an absolute bar to an application being made in the future, it prevents that person from having an automatic right to apply and any future application will need permission of the court in the first instance.
The problem with this section of the Children Act 1989, is that it previously only applied in exceptional circumstances. Even in those exceptional circumstances, an application seeking permission of the court to bring a further application was measured against a very low threshold, so it was straightforward for permission to be obtained. The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 strengthens a barring order by bringing about the following changes:
- Orders may be made where the court concludes that the bringing or prolonging of proceedings constitutes domestic abuse against the other parent and would put them and/or the child at risk of harm;
- That it is not necessary to demonstrate repeated applications before the court could properly make such an order;
- The court can make such an order of its own motion (that is, without another party to the proceedings making an application);
- That permission to make an application following a barring order should only be granted where the applicant provides evidence that there has been a material change of circumstances since the barring order was made.
Through these amendments, it will be easier for a victim to access the protection of a barring order and it will place a higher burden on the perpetrator to demonstrate that such an order should be disregarded, to allow a further application to made.
If you have been a victim of domestic abuse and need assistance with a barring order, please do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced family lawyers who can help with your situation.