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    Why are domestic abusers still cross-examining their victims in the family court?

    On the 18th of July, the House of Commons debated the issue of progress on protecting victims of domestic abuse in the family courts. The debate was moved by Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley.
    In order to explain what the debate was about, I’m going to quote quite heavily from it, all quotes being from Mrs Phillips’ contribution.
    She began by explaining that:

    “There is often friction among specialist women’s organisations, the judiciary and lawyers with regard to issues to do with violence against women and girls, and the court system. Often the problem is that we do not all sing from the same hymn sheet. Every single one of the briefings, however, whether from the Magistrates’ Association, the Law Society or one of the specialist organisations makes at least one of three recommendations to Government. I will, therefore, focus on those specific recommendations and ask the Government to do something about them.”

    The first recommendation relates to perpetrators being able to cross-examine victims in the family court (I mentioned this here last Friday). Mrs Phillips did not mince her words on this. Without bothering to qualify the word ‘perpetrator’ with the word ‘alleged’, she said:

    “The idea that in this country—still, today, right now, in the courts—a perpetrator is cross-examining a victim of domestic abuse, perhaps in order to gain access to their children, is absolutely harrowing.”

    She explained of course that:

    “…the practice is a direct consequence of the changes to the legal aid regime made by the … Government”

    And that:

    “As a result, it is now the case that not only perpetrators but—we must not forget this—victims must act as litigants in person.”

    Why victims? Isn’t legal aid still available to them? Well, not always.
    She explained:

    “The Minister will no doubt respond by saying that the Government have made changes to legal aid in civil and family court cases involving domestic abuse, but every single day I am notified of at least one case of domestic abuse victims not being able to access legal aid in the family court.”

    And how many victims are subjected to this ‘secondary abuse’ in court?
    She had this answer:

    “Queen Mary University of London found that 24% of domestic violence victims who had gone through the family court system had been cross-examined by their perpetrator”

    Moving on, the second recommendation relates to practice direction 12J and the new practice direction 3AA. As to the former, Mrs Phillips explained that:

    “…practice direction 12J basically undoes the idea that someone who has been abusive has a right to see their children.”

    Again using robust language, she explained her position thus:

    “I wonder whether the Minister [i.e. Justice Minister Lucy Frazer] will join me in stressing the importance of this very simple message: “If you beat, coerce, humiliate and abuse your children’s mother, you waive your right to be their father until the moment the non-abusive parent decides otherwise.”

    She qualified this, however, by explaining:

    “I am not saying for one second that no one who commits domestic abuse should be able to see their children, but they should not have a right to demand to see them where the non-abusive parent does not wish those children—and the children do not wish—to be put in that situation.”

    As to PD3AA, she said:

    “New practice direction 3AA requires courts to consider whether those involved in family proceedings are vulnerable and, if so, whether that is likely to diminish their participation in proceedings or … the quality of their evidence.”

    She asked:

    “What are the Minister and the Department doing to review the use of practice direction 12J following its reaffirmation? It has been around for a long time. Can we conduct some sort of review of whether it is working or whether it needs updating, and of new practice direction 3AA? Both are key to ensuring that we can rebuild trust among victims of domestic abuse.”
    Lastly, the third recommendation relates to the issue of special measures for victims of domestic abuse in the family courts, which Mrs Phillips described as “woefully behind those in criminal justice proceedings.”

    In some cases, she said:

    “…the same woman may present at the same courthouse—literally the same building—and be offered different things. She would most likely be greeted at the door of the criminal court by an independent domestic violence adviser co-located in that courthouse, who would have arranged different times for her and would explain the system and help her find the special area for her in the court. She may then walk around the back of the building and go through a different door into the family court, where someone may say, “Oh, there’s Larry—you can just sit next to him, regardless of the years of abuse you have suffered.”

    She has an excellent point, and one that has often been raised (I recall scenarios of the above type when I was practising, and it seems little has changed in the nine years since I last entered a court building).
    She went on scathingly:

    “There is absolutely no excuse for the tardiness with which we have reacted to something we have known about for a long time. At least since I came to this place, we have been raising the need for separate rooms, separate arrival times and better evidence-giving opportunities, so that people do not just have a curtain around them but can give evidence from elsewhere via video link.”

    Quite.
    I will leave it there, but there is considerably more in the debate – the above just concentrates upon Mrs Phillips’ opening remarks, setting out the main points of the debate. If you want to read more, you can find the debate here, although I should give a word of warning: as you may have gathered from the above, it is very female-centric, with little mention of the fact that men are also victims of domestic abuse. More

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    What family lawyers were talking about this week…

    Family Justice Minister Simon Hughes has promised action on the problem of the growing numbers of litigants in person in our courts, following the legal aid cuts last year. Speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference he said that he had persuaded colleagues at the Ministry of Justice to find a solution to the increasing…
    The post What family lawyers were talking about this week… appeared first on Stowe Family Law. More

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    D CEO Names Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson Partner Keith Nelson to Dallas 500

    Annual top business listing recognizes Nelson for leadership in Family Law 

    DALLAS – D CEO magazine has selected Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP (ONDA) name partner Keith Nelson for the 2021 edition of the Dallas 500, highlighting the region’s most influential business leaders. 
    Mr. Nelson, a founding member of the firm, earned recognition for his more than 25 years of leadership and dedication to one of the largest Family Law firms in Texas. 
    The Dallas 500 features top North Texas business leaders and executives in more than 60 industries. The list is created by editors from D CEO magazine following a year’s worth of interviews and extensive research. 
    Recognized for his representation of individuals in Family Law disputes, Mr. Nelson was recently honored once again among the Top 100 Super Lawyers in Texas along with his colleagues Richard Orsinger, Scott Downing, Jeff Anderson, Brad LaMorgese and Lon Loveless, solidifying Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson’s stellar reputation. With more than 100,000 practicing attorneys in Texas, the designation is especially significant because it is the third consecutive year ONDA has been recognized for having the most Top 100 Super Lawyers of any firm statewide. 
    Mr. Nelson was also recognized for his work in Family Law in The Best Lawyers in America 2021 listing, the nation’s oldest peer-review guide. The firm was honored separately in the 2021 Best Law Firms listing published by U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America. 
    For more information on Keith Nelson, visit: https://www.ondafamilylaw.com/attorney/keith-m-nelson/  More

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    Orsinger Nelson Downing & Anderson Recognized in 2021 Best Law Firms

    Firm ranked for 12th consecutive year in Family Law, Mediation, Appellate practice areas
    We are pleased to announce the publishers of U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America have recognized Orsinger Nelson Downing & Anderson (ONDA) in the annual Best Law Firms listing. 
    The firm’s Appellate practice received national recognition five years in a row, along with metropolitan honors in Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio. The firm also earned top honors for its Family Law expertise in the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio metro areas, with additional recognition in the Family Law Mediation category. 
    Best Law Firms rankings are based on thorough client and attorney evaluations, including peer and editorial staff review. A firm must have at least one attorney recognized in the current Best Lawyers in America guide to earn Best Law Firms eligibility. Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson has 14 lawyers in the 2021 Best Lawyers listing.  
    Name partners Richard Orsinger, Keith Nelson, Scott Downing and Jeff Anderson earned Best Lawyers recognition for Family Law. In addition, Mr. Orsinger was honored for his Appellate work, and Mr. Anderson was recognized for his Family Law Arbitration practice. 
    Firm partners William M. Reppeto III,  Brad M. LaMorgese, Amber Liddell Alwais, Paula A. Bennett, Lon M. Loveless, Paul Hewett, Holly Rampy Baird, and R. Porter Corrigan, as well as associate Ryan Kirkham and Of Counsel James M. Loveless, have each been recognized by Best Lawyers for representing individuals in Family Law. Mr. LaMorgese received additional honors for his Appellate practice, and Ms. Bennett was also recognized for Family Law Mediation. 
    The firm’s recognition in the Best Law Firms 2021 listing is the latest in a multitude of awards the firm has earned in recent years. Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP, solidified its national reputation in October with more Top 100 Texas Super Lawyers honorees than any other law firm. It was the third consecutive year the firm was recognized as having the most Top 100 lawyers in a state with more than 100,000 practicing attorneys.  
    ONDA attorneys have been repeatedly recognized in D Magazine’s Best Lawyers in Dallas honors along with D CEO’s Dallas 500, a list of the top business leaders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 
    With offices in Dallas, Frisco, Fort Worth and San Antonio, Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson, LLP, is one of Texas’ largest Family Law firms. Each partner is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, as well as a member of the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists.  More

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    What is the Barder principle?

    The Barder principle provides for an order of the Court to be set aside or appealed outside of the usual time limits if certain criteria apply.  Where did the Barder principle come from?  The principle comes from the sad case of Barder v Barder in 1987 in which an order was successfully appealed out of…
    The post What is the Barder principle? appeared first on Stowe Family Law. More

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    Holly Rampy Baird Discusses COVID-19’s Implications on Divorce Cases & Hearings on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas

    COVID-19 has implicated almost every element of our daily lives, and complicated domestic situations and divorce are no exception. Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson partner Holly Rampy Baird appeared on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas to discuss how couples are moving forward with their divorce cases amidst the pandemic. View the interview here:
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    Paula Bennett and Brad LaMorgese Discuss Divorce Preparation on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas

    Divorce can be a daunting and overwhelming thing. That said, it is important to properly prepare for such a life change. This involves organizing finances, estates, and selecting the best attorney for your needs. Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson partners Paula Bennett and Brad LaMorgese appeared on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas to discuss these steps […] More

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    Keith Nelson and Brad LaMorgese Discuss Divorce & Child Custody on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas

    The coronavirus has impacted many aspects of our daily lives. For some couples, the stay-at-home orders and the financial uncertainty may have caused a breaking point and a path toward divorce. Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson partners Keith Nelson and Brad LaMorgese appeared on WFAA’s Good Morning Texas to discuss what couples should consider when […] More