Domestic Abuse a Potential Factor in One Fifth of Divorces


  • Physical or emotional abuse alleged in 22% of divorces
  • 70% of domestic abuse divorces involve children
  • Abusers are awarded contact with children in 40% of cases

A review of 200 ongoing divorces has revealed that accusations of domestic abuse features in almost one quarter of cases, with almost three quarters of those involving children.

Domestic violence and abuse

Simpson Millar’s family law department has examined 200 of the firm’s current divorce cases to gain an insight into the scale of domestic violence and emotional abuse.

Emma Pearmaine who is Director of Family Services at Simpson Millar says she is concerned but unsurprised by the findings.

“Domestic violence is a huge issue and one which takes many forms, from physical violence and abuse to controlling and coercive behaviour. To find elements of domestic violence in more than 20% of cases is a real worry.

“In some instances – especially where the abuse is financial or emotional – the victim isn’t even aware that they are being intentionally controlled by their partner. They often blame themselves and this prevents them from speaking out and seeking help. By the time the relationship breaks down, the abuse can have been ongoing for many years – affecting the victim’s physical and mental health, their careers and the wellbeing of their children.”

Emma is Chair of domestic violence charity, the Corporate Alliance and she says employers also have a role to play in helping the victims of domestic abuse.

Employers can help victims of domestic violence by recognising when there is a problem and signposting them to organisations that can help. But managers and colleagues will only be able to spot the signs of domestic violence if they understand what it looks like; how stalking and coercive control affects people in the workplace.”

International Women's Day is celebrated on 8 March 2016 and Emma says the occasion should also be used to highlight a silent epidemic which affects one in four women in their lifetime.

“Domestic violence doesn’t just affect the victim; it devastates families. As our figures indicate, domestic violence could be the cause of a huge number of divorces – many of which involve children. If victims and abusers are able to recognise the problem, they can seek help before the scars become too deep.

“A sample review of Simpson Millar cases from 2015 tells us that the abusive spouse was awarded regular contact with their children in around 40% of divorce cases. This is an incredibly sensitive issue and judging which outcome is ultimately the best for the children is hugely complex. But it does indicate that judges recognise the importance of children having contact with both their parents, and that an abusive situation does not need to be permanent.”

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