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Domestic abuse support in the family court room - IDVAs and ISVAs

View profile for Franca Webb
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The changing role of independent domestic violence advocates (IDVAS) and independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAS) in the family court room.

In the mid 2000s Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) were introduced to support victims of domestic violence and sexual violence, particularly those going through court proceedings.

Over the years the role of these support workers has expanded.  Whilst some services have been able to provide a worker to accompany the survivor to court, the court has often declined for the worker to come into the family court room itself.

On the whole it has been suggested that being accompanied in the court room by a support worker would give a person an unfair advantage (despite the supported person being the victim).

There have recently however been recommendations that such workers be allowed into the court room as a matter of course.  The recommendations set out by the President of the Family Division in April 2023 are issued only as guidance currently, although there is an expectation of the right to reasonable assistance by an IDVA or ISVA.  Their role is very clear.  They are there to provide practical, emotional and moral support.  They cannot give legal advice.

They are there to provide assistance and support to engage with the court process as well as with out of court discussions and also, they will help in dealing with authorities or other support services. 

They are not to assist in preparing the case or making submissions.  They have no rights of audience which means they cannot address the court on the client’s behalf.

The court can refuse to allow a support worker to attend a hearing if it is in the interests of justice eg if the advisor oversteps the mark or perhaps is called as a witness by one party.

The perpetrator can still object to an advisor coming into court but must state their objections.  The survivor has a right to reply.  If a support worker is excluded the court has to give a short judgement explaining why.

The situation has progressed from the time these support workers were introduced and it will be interesting to see what the future holds in respect of any further expansion of their role.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, please contact Franca Webb at for legal advice.

If you are seeking support in the Hampshire area, please contact Stop Domestic Abuse or telephone 033005337630.