Domestic Abuse and the Family Court
The Court presumes that the involvement of a parent in a child’s life will further the child’s welfare so long as that involvement does not put the child or the other parent at risk of suffering harm – the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration of the Court when considering the arrangements for any children.
S1(3) of the Children Act sets out the matters which need to be taken into account when determining the arrangement for any children and are known collectively as the “welfare checklist”. They are as follows…
- The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his/her age and understanding.
- His/her physical, emotional and educational needs.
- The likely effect on him/her of any change in his/her circumstances.
- His/her age, sex, background and any characteristics of his/her which the Court considers relevant.
- Any harm which he/she has suffered or is at risk of suffering.
- How capable each of his/her parents and any other person in relation to whom the Court considers the question to be relevant is of meeting his/her needs.
Domestic abuse can affect anybody; regardless of their gender, age, race, sexuality, religion or social background. Domestic abuse can encompass but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse. A useful took when considering if you are a victim of domestic abuse is the Power and Control Wheel.
There is evidence that domestic abuse is harmful to children and the Court have put in place Practice Direction 12J which sets out what steps should be taken in any case involving children in which it is alleged or admitted, or there is other reason to believe, that the child or a party has experienced domestic abuse perpetrated by another party or that there is a risk of some abuse.
If the Court make a determination of domestic abuse, they must then go on to consider if any type of assessment, including expert assessments would assist the Court at the welfare stage.
The Court should not make an Interim Child Arrangements Order or a Final Child Arrangements Order unless it is in the child’s interests and the order would not expose the child or other parent to an “unmanageable” risk of harm.
It is also possible to ask the Court for a participation direction using Practice Direction 3A to be made to prevent cross-examination by the perpetrator of the domestic abuse. This is a common issue when both parties are acting in person due to the restrictions in the availability of legal aid.
It is important that you make your family lawyer aware at the earliest opportunity if domestic abuse is a factor in your case so that steps can be taken to inform the Court and so that the Practice Direction can be implemented.
If domestic abuse is a factor in your matter, then you may be eligible for public funding. We are able to advise over the telephone if this is the case and guide you as to the evidence requirements for the Legal Aid Agency. If you are not eligible for public funding, then we offer an initial one hour consultation at £100.00 plus VAT.
Support for Domestic Abuse
If you are a victim of domestic abuse, there are a number of support agencies you can contact and further details can be found below:
- Emergency services 999
- Women’s Aid 24 hour National Domestic Helpline 0808 2000 247
Refuge 24 hour National Helpline
- Samaritans 116 123
- Inland Revenue 0845 302 0203
- Rape Crisis
- Shelter 0808 800 4444
- Victim Support 0808 1689 111
- Crimestoppers 0800 555 111
Support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual period experiencing domestic violence
- Galop 0800 999 5428
Support for children and young people
Support for men
Support for women and children from minority ethnic communities
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage Unit 020 7008 0151
- Refugee Council
- Immigration Advice Service 0333 305 3779
- Southall Black Sisters 020 8571 0800
- Muslim Community Helpline
- Jewish Women’s Aid Helpline 0808 801 0500
- Somalian Women’s Centre 020 8896 0783
- Chinese Information & Advice Centre 0300 201 1868
- BAWSO 0207 6973 468
24 hour helpline 0800 731 8147
- JAN Trust 0208 889 9433
- Karma Nirvana 0808 5999 247
- Women’s Aid Federation of England 0117 944 4411
- RISE 0300 323 9985