SBS welcomes the recognition that has finally been given to the problem of transnational marriage abandonment in the family justice system. In partnership with the University of Lincoln and Dawson Cornwall Solicitors, we have managed to persuade the President of the Family Division to include abandonment as a form of domestic abuse in his revised Practice Direction on child arrangements, domestic violence and harm.
Many South Asian women in particular, contact SBS with appalling accounts of abuse and abandonment. The practice involves abusive British national or British resident husbands deliberately disposing of unwanted brides in their countries of origin where they are often at risk of violence, exploitation, poverty, destitution and social stigma. They are left trapped in abusive and limping marriages and in circumstances that involve the deliberate infraction of their legal rights to protection, support and rehabilitation. Until recently, this problem was little understood in family law, policy and practice in the UK. We hope that the revised Practice Direction will mean that family courts will now be more responsive to abandoned women who wish to assert their legal rights to property, maintenance, dowry and children upon divorce in the UK.
The Practice Direction will provide guidance not only to family court judges but also to family law practitioners and the Legal Aid Agency which has often failed to recognise abandonment as a form of abuse and so refused legal aid. Much more needs to be done to secure protection for abandoned women, but the Practice Direction is an important step forward as we also turn our attention to immigration law and policy to make similar demands.