There has been increasing research into domestic abuse and the harm caused to children together with a growing awareness of the need for children to have a relationship with both their parents following a separation.
The court has had to grapple with the need for children to know and see both parents following a relationship breaking down, while still making sure that they are not in danger of further harm where domestic abuse has been an issue. Within the court process, there are certain safeguards which help the court to achieve this:
- concerns about domestic abuse will be taken seriously by the court and investigated;
- Cafcass will carry out checks and risk assessments if appropriate; and
- the court can request additional advice from professionals such as Cafcass, social services or family therapists.
When deciding to make a child arrangements order where there has been domestic abuse, the court will always ensure that any order does not expose the child to any further harm as well as it being in the child's best interests to spend time with that parent.
We have represented parents in highly sensitive cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, alcohol addiction and domestic abuse – often where there are simultaneous police investigations and criminal proceedings. We work closely with professionals such as child psychologists and family therapists to find a child-focussed solution.
Recently, in 2021, two of our specialist child law team lawyers represented one of the parents in a leading Court of Appeal judgment which set out how the courts should support those making arrangements for their children when there are allegations of any form of domestic abuse.