If domestic abuse is known or alleged during family court proceedings
The statutory role of your Family Court Adviser (FCA) is to safeguard the welfare of the child and to advise the court about their welfare and best interests. Domestic abuse is identified as a risk in a significant proportion of our private law cases. It is your FCA’s role to assist the court to balance their decisions carefully so that children and adults are safeguarded, and the child has a right to maintain a relationship with both their parents where this is in their best interests and can be managed without causing additional or further harm.
Definition of domestic abuse
We use the government’ definition of domestic abuse as, “any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can include, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional.” (Gov.uk Domestic violence and abuse)
Domestic abuse and children
We know from our own extensive experience of what children tell us and from research that children are harmed by living with domestic abuse. They do not need to have ‘witnessed’ the abuse or been the direct victim of abuse to experience harm. Just living in the same household where domestic abuse has or is happening is harmful to their welfare. The harm to children from domestic abuse can cause emotional and behavioural difficulties and physical symptoms associated with trauma and post-traumatic stress. The harm caused to a child from domestic abuse is a focus in the FCA’s assessment of their welfare and best interests.
How we assess domestic abuse
If the family court has asked us to prepare a report where domestic abuse has been identified as a risk to the welfare of the child, your FCA will provide an assessment to the court that will focus on the harm the child has experienced from their experience of domestic abuse and the risk of further harm.
Your FCA will undertake an assessment that will include interviewing you, your child’s other parent and your child. They will decide whether to speak with other professionals involved with your child or you and sometimes with wider family members. Your FCA has access to a structured framework for assessing children’s cases where domestic abuse is known or alleged called the Domestic Abuse Practice Pathway.
Your FCA may also use other information gathering and assessment aids from our evidence informed practice framework.