The Family Court has issued new guidelines for dealing with cases issued under the Children Act 1989 concerning a child where there is an allegation of domestic harm and/or violence.
The phrase ‘domestic abuse’ is very widely defined and is not limited to physical abuse. It can include psychological, social, financial or emotional abuse and includes forced marriages or abandonment, coercive and/or controlling behaviour and ill treatment.
The Court will consider any form of domestic abuse as being potentially harmful to the child and/or where it puts a child at the risk of harm. This can include not only domestic violence directed at the child, but circumstances where the child witnesses one or both of their parents being violent or abusive to the other.
Children may also suffer direct physical or psychological and/or emotional harm living with parents who have a history of domestic abuse.
The Family Court will seek to identify any such issues at the outset of proceedings and ensure that any application made under the Children Act 1989 by a parent is conducted in such a manner as to ensure that a child is safe from exposure to such abuse.
The Court will typically not make any order before an initial ‘Welfare Report’ has been carried out. This is usually done by the reporter speaking to both parents and checking for any criminal record or past involvement of Social Services.
Where there are allegations of abuse that the accused parent denies, the Family Court will decide whether or not it is necessary to have a fact finding hearing to determine whether or not such abuse has taken place and, if so, what effect it should have on the arrangements for the child to see one or both of its parents.
The Court will also consider other matters such as whether or not the child needs to be represented separately in such proceedings.
All of the solicitors at Pinney Talfourd are experienced in dealing with Children Act proceedings, including such cases where it has been alleged that the child or children of the family have been subjected to domestic abuse in one form or the other. It is imperative for parents involved in cases where allegations of such behavior have been made to obtain specialist legal advice, as the outcome of these proceedings will determine how, if at all, one or other parent will see and spend time with his or her child or children.
The Court has wide ranging powers to protect the child and it is important that such matters are raised as soon as possible with your solicitor to ensure that your child or children are properly protected by the Courts moving forward.
Pinney Talfourd offers a free initial consultation where such matters can be discussed with your solicitor. Please contact our Family Law department on 01708 229444 or email us using the form to the right to arrange a free initial consultation.This article was written by Michael Sheville, Partner in the Family Law department at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of September 2017.