How Family Courts Are Compromised by Coercive Control

Exploring covert tactics of emotional manipulation in family court disputes

Sacha | The Justice Lark


Photo by Sivani Bandaru on Unsplash

Family courts are traditionally seen as arbiters of fairness: institutions that protect the vulnerable and purportedly uphold the “principles of justice”.

For anyone who has read my other work on here, you’ll know that as a former barrister (lawyer) with near a decade’s experience working across a variety of courts, I hold a more cynical perspective.

In my experience, when it comes to cases tainted by the shadow of coercive control, these purported “halls of justice” are particularly lacking.

In such cases, I would go so far as to say that family courts often in fact become stages where manipulation plays out unchecked.

Coercive control, despite its profound psychological implications, remains a poorly understood phenomenon within the family court system.

The problem arises in part due to the fact that its signs are subtle and insidious, unlike visible scars or bruises. Yet, its impacts are profound, eroding a victim’s sense of self and autonomy.

Within the solemn atmosphere of family courts, perpetrators can adeptly use coercive control to unjustifiably manipulate narratives, turning the tables on their victims and, in many cases, successfully skewing the court’s perception of events.

The system’s inherent weaknesses and lack of nuanced understanding of this form of abuse enable such manipulation, often leaving the true victim discredited and disadvantaged.

What This Looks Like In Practice

Coercive control is adept at slipping through the cracks, drawing its power from its stealth. It’s not a singular act but a recurring pattern of behavior that persistently gnaws at the victim’s psyche.

Over time, it establishes an overwhelming sense of powerlessness in the victim, like a fog that slowly envelops and obscures clear sight.

(For those not already familiar with the term, I’ve describes its main tenets in more detail here).



Sacha | The Justice Lark

Passionate writer and researcher focused on promoting justice and equity, with emphasis on issues related to gender-based violence, trauma & mental health.