Domestic abuse training for family lawyers

In 2020, the Ministry of Justice Family Harms Panel report recommended a wide range of training “for all participants in the family justice system, including: a cultural change programme to introduce and embed reforms to private law children’s proceedings and help to ensure consistent implementation”.

Our own response to the Review highlighted the need for specialist training across the whole family justice system and as a result SafeLives is developing and delivering a cultural-change training programme to create systemic transformation within the family justice system and strengthen practitioner capacity to respond well to domestic abuse, kindly funded by the Legal Education Foundation

Cafcass, social services and the family courts need some urgent training on anti social personalities and abusive traits and behaviour.

Survivor, Every Story Matters 

Applications for our domestic abuse training for family lawyers are now open.

This free training is designed to enxhance family lawyers' skills in:

  • Identifying and evidencing domestic abuse and coercive control, including the legal framework, definitions and terminology around DA and the different forms that abuse may take with a focus on diversity and inclusion

  • Understanding the impact of new case law and statute on how the court understands and responds to coercive and controlling behaviour

  • Practicing appropriate multi-agency working to manage risk and support clients safely

  • Identifying the impacts of abuse on victims and their children, and on survivor’s mental health and coping mechanisms

  • Using a practical approach to responding to trauma to achieve best evidence and effectively engage clients

It has been a very eye-opening experience as it explained real life scenarios from victims and the solicitor's point of view.

Previous learner

Priority for spaces will go to family lawyers in Bristol, Bath, London and West Sussex, however lawyers from outside these pilot areas are welcome to apply. 

We are running four free online courses on the dates below:

  • Wednesday 29 June - ONLINE TRAINING via Zoom
  • Thursday 30 June - ONLINE TRAINING via Zoom
  • Wednesday 13 July - ONLINE TRAINING via Zoom
  • Thursday 14 July - ONLINE TRAINING via Zoom

Training times are 9.30am to 5pm. 

Interested? Apply here.

As part of the development of this project, we have produced two reports, exploring the voices of survivors and of family legal professionals. The reports show a lack of understanding, trauma awareness and support for victims of domestic abuse in the family court. The reports also identify key gaps in lawyers’ understanding, including coercive control and other non-physical forms of abuse. 

In the first of two reports, “Don’t complain” Domestic abuse survivors’ experiences of family lawyers, survivors told SafeLives they felt judged, often misunderstood, and ignored during the court process. A survivor who felt silenced by her lawyer told us she was advised not to complain when she noted that reports were incorrect or were missing vital information.

Always the advice is: ‘Well, don’t complain. You’ll be seen to be doing this…it’ll go against you’

- Domestic abuse survivor

Read “…Don’t complain” Domestic abuse survivors’ experiences of family lawyers

In the second report, “Hit and miss:” Family lawyers’ understanding of domestic abuse, legal professionals and domestic abuse practitioners identified key gaps in lawyers’ understanding. These gaps can prevent them from being able to identify and appropriately respond to survivors of domestic abuse.

Some do, some don’t [understand] – but the majority don’t.

- Domestic abuse practitioner

Professionals from the legal sector also told us that despite some great examples of excellent practice, few lawyers tend to show they understand what it might feel like for survivors to go through the family justice system which can “replicate the power and control dynamics” of domestic abuse. 

Read “Hit and miss” Family lawyers’ understanding of domestic abuse

We want to see a reformed and informed family justice system where survivors of domestic abuse have faith in the system - where the safety of adult and child survivors is paramount and where better, safer social justice outcomes are achieved.  

A better understanding of the manipulative behaviours, particularly coercion and control, used by perpetrators, and of the reasons why victims do not leave relationships, is essential for professionals associated with the family court process.

Much more than a training course, this culture change programme will have the power to improve outcomes for survivors, as lawyers are better equipped to advise their clients, and restore trust in the family justice system as survivors feel believed and protected.

We are proud to be working with VOICES who are our specialist partner ensuring survivor voice guides the development of the training.

The Advisory Group will input into the programme throughout the two and a half years of the project and will include domestic abuse organisations, family legal professionals, academics, and representatives from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office.

The training will be subject to an evaluation and will be open to solicitors and barristers practicing in family law in the following areas: London, Bristol, Bath and West Sussex.

“I was told by my solicitors that the Judge had made it clear that by using the screens I will prove that I am unable to co-parent properly,  in which case he would remove both children from me because I would be reinforcing my daughter’s fear of her father.”  

*Laura, Survivor supported by VOICES 

“On a further hearing after the fact finding, where I had to again give evidence, I was advised that I could give evidence via video link ... I was told that this was absolutely available to me but my solicitor urged me to give evidence in person using the screen as again the judge being able to see and hear me clearly would assist in their decision making.” 

*Claire, Survivor supported by VOICES  

*not the survivor’s real name 

“…Family courts [are] not being set up to deal with domestic abuse, in particular due to [a] lack of awareness of perpetrator psychology and behaviour.”

Survivor, Every Story Matters  

“…[the Family Courts] can be too optimistic of the ability of an abusive person to be a healthy parent.”

Survivor, Every Story Matters  


For more information on this programme for family lawyers, please get in touch: