Domestic Abuse and Child Arrangement Proceedings: Identifying and assessing the risk of harm, including coercive and controlling behaviour

Mandy Burton, Vanessa Bettinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This commentary considers the Court of Appeal decision in Re H-N and others (Children) (Domestic Abuse: Finding of fact hearings). The appellate court heard four conjoined appeals demonstrating what can go wrong in child arrangement proceedings where there are allegations of domestic abuse. The decision highlights a range of specific issues, including the difficulties of identifying and assessing the significance of coercive and controlling behaviour, which the court considers essential to a ‘modern’ understanding of domestic abuse. The court tackles the application of the guidance in Practice Direction 12J; including whether to hold a fact-finding hearing and, if so, determining which allegations to hear (through the formulation of directions, including Scott Schedules) and how to approach the evidence at a fact finding hearing, including whether to have regard to criminal law concepts. In this commentary the reasoning of the court in relation to both the specific cases and the broader issues is analysed. The analysis is contextualised within recent developments, in particular the expert panel report, published last year, on assessing the risk of harm for children and adults in child arrangement proceedings in England and Wales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-20
Number of pages17
JournalChild and Family Law Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

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