When the Court considers making a Child Arrangements Order for a parent to have contact with a child it has to assume, since the Children Act was amended in October 2014, that it is best for the child to have both parents involved in their life but domestic abuse will affect contact.
Practice Direction 12 governs the Court’s practice in domestic abuse cases and since 2014 domestic violence will include controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour. This is good news but it can be difficult to identify. When domestic abuse has occurred, the Court should consider the conduct of both parents toward each other and towards the child, including:
- The effect of the domestic abuse on the child and the arrangements for the where the child is living
- The effect of it on the child’s relationship with each parent
- The motives of the perpetrator; are they genuinely interested in what is best for the child or is the application to Court and the desire to see the child just part of the intimidation and harassment?
- The likely behaviour during contact of the perpetrator and its effect on the child
- The capacity of the parents to understand the effect of the past and potential future violence
The Court must then consider whether contact should be supervised, whether there should be conditions on contact and whether the Order should be monitored.
An Order for contact will only be made if the Court is satisfied that the physical and emotional safety of the child and relevant parent can, so far as possible, be secured.
Parents who think that they may have been affected by these issued should take professional advice and should inform their solicitor at an early stage.