"...Don't complain"

Domestic abuse survivors’ experiences of family lawyers

This report explores the experiences of survivors of domestic abuse who feel failed by the family courts system.

In this research survivors of domestic abuse share their experiences of feeling unsupported, silenced and even blamed by their lawyers. Survivors have raised times that legal professionals have told them to minimise or withhold information about the domestic abuse they lived with, in order to avoid ‘annoying’ the judge or ‘complicating’ a case. Others have been told that they can bring up allegations at a later date – but when they do, the Courts have rejected their disclosure out of hand on the basis that it was not raised at the outset of the case.

I had the judge turn around and say, just get over it. He’s done, what he’s done. Move on. And I was very shocked, and my solicitor didn’t say anything. Nobody said anything.


In 2020, the Ministry of Justice Family Harms Panel concluded that “family courts approach domestic abuse cases inconsistently, and in some cases with harmful effects.” One survivor of domestic abuse who responded to our Every Story Matters consultation told us that “family court professionals need to be educated in domestic abuse.” The Family Harms Panel 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 call for evidence highlighted the need for specialist training across the whole family justice system.

We want to thank all the survivors who shared their experiences of the family court with us. We hope the Domestic Abuse Family Lawyers training we have developed alongside this report will make the difference for future victims and survivors of domestic abuse who are represented in family court proceedings.

This report contains:

  • Introduction
  • About this report
  • Glossary
  • Summary of findings
  • Research approach
  • Learning
    • Support and empathy
    • Life events outside of court
    • Communication
    • Understanding domestic abuse
  • Conclusions and recommendations
  • Informing the training package
  • Appendix 1 – Focus Group

Domestic abuse training for family lawyers

Domestic Abuse Family Lawyers training is our cultural change programme creating transformation within the family justice system and strengthening practitioner capacity to respond to domestic abuse