Domestic Abuse & Child Contact – MPs Call for an Inquiry
Published 17 May 2019. By Anne Marie Kelly
A recent BBC news article highlights a call by a significant number of MPs for an inquiry into how family courts in England and Wales deal with victims of domestic abuse and their children.
Four children have died since 2014 after family courts granted unsupervised access to abusive ex-partners. However it is estimated that the number of children seriously injured during court-ordered contact may be much higher.
Research by the BBC identified an incident of a violent father who went on to kill both his children after being granted unsupervised contact with them, despite social workers and other professionals being scared to be alone him due to his aggressive behaviour.
The BBC article further revealed the story of a mother who had spent over £130,000 in legal fees, but whose abusive ex-partner with criminal convictions was still awarded unsupervised overnight contact. The mother stated how her children return to her with injuries resulting in visits to A&E.
Over 120 MPs from seven different parties have sent a letter to the Justice Secretary calling for an independent review into the family courts. Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s shadow policing minister, commented that it was “horrifying that even in cases of sexual assault, severe domestic abuse, in some cases murder, men are still being encouraged and granted access to their child”.
Anne Marie Kelly, Director of Family Law at MKB Law, comments: “Solicitors representing mothers making allegations that their partners/spouses have abused them sexually, physically or emotionally, should ensure that all evidence is placed before a Family Proceedings Court in proceedings where that partner, the father of their children, is seeking contact.
Whilst the presumption in law is that it is in the best interests of children to have contact with both parents post separation, this must be balanced against the right of the child to be safe during that contact. The court are bound to consider potential harm to the child.”
Anne Marie Kelly is a member of the Children Order Panel and the Guardian ad Litem Panel; she is a qualified mediator and an Advanced Advocate for adult and child clients.
This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.