For many years, it has been recognised that the impact of witnessing Domestic Violence between parents can have serious effects on Children both at the time and for many years later in life. How exposure to Domestic Violence manifests itself in children has also been the subject of much research.
Recently, the NSPCC released one such report which suggested that more than half of all children who are exposed to Domestic Violence will exhibit problematic behaviour at school. Such behaviour can include a significantly increased likelihood of carrying a weapon, or causing serious harm to someone else and being twice as likely to be expelled from school. It also includes an increased risk of anti-social behaviour such as fighting, drinking and use of drugs.
Sadly, as Children Law Specialists, we have to deal with cases in which children have been aware of domestic violence, all too often. Many people wrongly believe that a history of domestic abuse will automatically act as a bar to future contact between the abusive parent and the children taking place, however this is not what the law says. Instead, the court will undertake a detailed analysis of the risk posed to the Children and to what extent future risks can be reduced or eliminated, before deciding whether contact should take place, and if so, on what basis. There is an array of protective measures which can be put in place, where necessary, not only to protect the children from further exposure to violent and abusive behaviour but also to protect the parent who has been the victim of the abuse. No-one who has been the subject of abuse should feel it necessary to place themselves, or their children, at risk by facilitating contact before the risks have been considered and addressed.
The delicate balance between not causing a child harm by the total loss of the relationship with the violent parent and ensuring the child is not placed at risk of further harm through on-going exposure to violence and abuse is one of the more complex issues the Family Courts have to consider. Anyone who is or has been involved in an abusive relationship and is worried about the impact on their children is always advised to seek help and advice from Domestic Abuse organisations and/or a Specialist Family Lawyer.
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