In light of the latest changes of the law…

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…How will the Family Courts deal with contact between a child and a parent where there is proven domestic abuse?

In England and Wales there is a presumption that involving both parents in a child’s life will further the child’s welfare (in situations where it is safe and in the child’s best interests).

A recent change in the law, which came into effect on 2nd October 2017, provides guidance on how the Family Courts must deal with this presumption where there is proven domestic abuse.

The update sets out that any contact between a child and an offending parent must not expose the child to unmanageable risk of harm and must be in the best interests of the child. The Court must also consider the emotional and physical safety of the parent with whom the child is living with during any contact ordered.

The Courts are, therefore, responsible for considering the need for a child to spend time with both parents, whilst safeguarding the child and the parent with whom they live with from harm.

There is a growing awareness of this in the Family Courts and in the leading case of Re L (a child) (contact: domestic violence) the Judge commented:

In cases of proved domestic violence… the court has the task of weighing in the balance of the seriousness of the domestic violence… against the positive factors of contact between the parent found to have been violent and the child.”

In this case, the Court of Appeal heard four appeals in which the fathers appealed against orders to allow them direct contact with their children. In each case there was a background of domestic abuse between partners or spouses. The Court of Appeal dismissed the four appeals and held that there were no presumptions for or against contact to an offending parent and that the only principle applicable was the welfare of the child.

If you, a family member or a friend need further legal help or advice concerning a Family or Divorce matter please contact in confidence our Family Law Services & Divorce team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].

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