Abuse survivors’ experience of family law system to be captured in new research project.

Monday 8th January 2024: A nationwide survey of parents who have been involved with the Irish Family Law systems in situations of domestic violence and abuse has been launched today..

The research study is being undertaken by Trinity College Dublin in collaboration with Women’s Aid and is the first study in Ireland which specifically seeks both adult and child victims and survivors’ perspectives of the Irish Family Law system when domestic violence and abuse is also a factor. 

The study will provide a 360-degree view of how effectively guardianship, custody and access proceedings in the Irish Family Law system respond to the safety and wellbeing requirements of adult and child survivors.

Professor Stephanie Holt, Principal Investigator from the School of Social Work and Social Policy Trinity College Dublin said:

“This study will capture, for the first time, capture the views and experiences of adult and child survivors of domestic violence and abuse about their experience of the family law system. These unique insights will be invaluable in supporting the reform of family law in Ireland.”

The nationwide online survey will focus on what adult victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse, including coercive control, say about their experience of navigating the Irish Family Law system. It will also seek to better understand how the voice of the child who is a survivor of domestic violence and abuse is heard in family law cases concerning guardianship, custody, and access.

This fully anonymous online survey aims to capture the unique perspectives of adult and child survivors of domestic violence and abuse in cases of guardianship, custody, and access. The study also seeks to understand what helped and hindered adults and children when going through legal processes since the enactment of the Child and Family Relationships Act 2015.

Sarah Benson CEO of Women’s Aid added:  

“As a national frontline service operating for 50 years in Ireland Women’s Aid know that domestic abuse shows up in every aspect of a victim/survivor’s life: at home, in work, at school and particularly in our family courts system. This is an unprecedented opportunity to capture this experience where children are particularly involved. The survey findings will be included in this groundbreaking and timely research to contribute to current plans to reform our family law and justice systems. These plans must be victim-survivor informed at every stage, and this will help us ensure that their voices are heard.”

The research team want to hear from all victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse about their experiences, and those of their children.  This includes both male and female survivors, survivors with a disability, migrants and asylum seekers, minority ethnic backgrounds and LGBTQ+ communities and from all over Ireland. 

The study is funded by Women’s Aid and is being conducted by researchers from Trinity’s School of Social Work and Social Policy and colleagues in University College Cork. 

This online survey forms one phase of the broader research study. Findings from this study will provide an evidence base to feed directly into the legal reform process, which aims to improve the Family Law system in Ireland for future users.  

The survey, which will be live until the end of February 2024, will take approximately 30 minutes to complete and can be done on any device. It can be accessed here: https://tcdecon.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_es1um6KOQ5SoPHw