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  • Writer's pictureClaire Verney

What is the Essential Criteria for Commissioning a Domestic Abuse Expert in Family Court Cases?

In this post we will explain the essential criteria needed when commissioning an expert for family law cases where domestic abuse is a concern.

Using a Domestic Abuse Expert


Family courts often turn to an expert when a case is complex or has specific concerns, such as domestic abuse or sexual offending, that could put children at risk. Following the 2004 Women’s Aid report “Twenty-Nine Child Homicides: Lessons still to be learnt on Domestic Violence and Child Protection,” which described the cases of twenty nine children from thirteen families who were murdered by their fathers during contact, a recommendation was made that “a process of risk assessment should be undertaken by the court in every case in which domestic violence has been alleged or admitted, before a consent order is made.” These recommendations were then endorsed within the President’s subsequent Practice Directions.

Since that time a number of agencies with expertise in working with perpetrators of domestic abuse have delivered expert assessments in order to meet the practice directions and ensure that children are safeguarded. In 2012, a coalition of leading Domestic Violence agencies issued guidelines (Guidelines for the commissioning of expert Domestic Violence risk assessments), to assist those commissioning domestic violence assessments to identify an appropriate expert.

The guidance provides a list of key competencies that all expert domestic abuse assessors need to possess and suggests a checklist that professionals can use when commissioning an expert. These guidelines are set out as follows:

  1. Domestic Abuse - Assessors must be familiar with the dominant themes in domestic violence research. in particular, assessors must have an understanding of the nature and dynamics of domestic violence and its effects on victims and children, and demonstrate this in their assessments.

  2. Risk Assessment - Assessors must have good working knowledge both of the principles of risk assessment methodology and of the limitations of existing risk assessment instruments.

  3. Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment - Assessors must be familiar with the leading domestic violence risk assessment approaches.

  4. Perpetrator Treatment - Assessors must be familiar with the advantages and limitations of treatment approaches for perpetrators, including psychotherapeutic and psycho-educational interventions

  5. Child Contact - Assessors must be familiar with the range of services provided by contact centres, and aware of the risks to children and their resident carer associated with both direct and indirect child contact.

  6. Work with offenders - The assessor should be able to evidence their expertise in working with domestic violence offenders, in both assessment and treatment settings.

DV-ACT Experts

All DV-ACT assessors meet the key competencies outlined in the guidelines, to ensure that your case uses an expert in the field that will deliver clarity and expert knowledge to the proceedings contact us.




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