Generally speaking, when a family relationship breaks down there will be a presumption by the Family Court that it is best for a child’s welfare to have the continuing involvement of both parents in their lives going forward. In the majority of cases arrangements are made which allow children to maintain a strong bond with both parents. However, what if this scenario isn’t in the best interest of the child?
How will the courts approach cases where domestic violence is suspected?
If court proceedings are issued with a view to deciding what the child arrangements should be, the court will commission a safeguarding report at the outset. This will flag up whether there are any domestic violence or abuse problems which may be relevant to the court’s determination.
The definition of domestic abuse extends beyond physical violence to psychological, financial and emotional abuse. The courts will take account of controlling behaviour which would include depriving a partner of the means needed for independence and the isolation of a partner from sources of support.
The court will take account of the fact that children also suffer harm indirectly when the abuse of one parent impacts on the other.
If the Judge decides abuse may be relevant, they will consider arranging an additional hearing, known as a fact-finding hearing, in order to hear the evidence. If a Judge determines there has been violence or abuse, consideration will be given to any advice, treatment or other intervention that may be necessary before any child arrangements order is made. The Judge will want to ensure any child is safe when they are in contact with a parent, and that the contact is in the best interests of the child.
Whilst it remains unusual for contact to be denied outright to a parent, the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration and when necessary the courts will take the unusual step of limiting or denying contact if the child`s safety warrants it.
For more information on domestic violence and child arrangements, please contact our Family Law team on 0161 475 7676.