Topic: Child contact
Making safe arrangements for children after separation.
Figures on child contact and domestic abuse.
We consult with children affected by domestic violence.
On average, only 1% of applications for contact (under the Children Act 1989) are refused – yet domestic violence is an issue in up to 70% of family proceedings cases. View judicial statistics.
Since the implementation of the Children Act 1989, Women's Aid has been campaigning for improvements to the safety of children under private family law.
When parents separate, ongoing contact between the children and both parents is usually seen as a good thing for everyone concerned. Women's Aid supports this - provided the children's wishes are taken into account, and contact can take place safely.
However, when one of the parents is an abuser, the other parent (usually the mother) may be very concerned about his having contact with the children, and may fear for their safety if contact is enforced. The perpetrator may also have abused the children - or the mother may fear that he will abduct them, or use contact to trace her whereabouts and abuse her further. Women's Aid has collected information on 29 children who were killed as a result of contact or residence arrangements.
We have also listened to children - many of whom believe their wishes and fears have been ignored. View our Kidspeak report.
These concerns were finally acknowledged by HM Inspectorate of Court Administration (HMICA) which in 2005 provided a detailed account of the numerous ways in which the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) failed to ensure the safety of domestic violence survivors and their children in private law family law proceedings. (CAFCASS is the body which looks after the welfare of children involved in family court proceedings.)
Following this, the Family Justice Council produced a report to the President of the Family Division (2007), recommending safe and positive contact, only, after a full assessment of any associated risks. Despite this, it is still the case that when a parent applies for contact in the family courts, this will almost always be granted, whether or not there is a history of serious abuse. This issue is still of great concern to survivors and service providers (See Women's Aid report to 2008 Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry)
Also view Making safe arrangements for contact.