Recent research by Women’s Aid and CAFCASS has found that 62 per cent of applications to the Family Court about where a child should live or spend time feature allegations of domestic abuse.
The research highlighted a significant impact on children who experience domestic abuse. Younger children received support at school to improve their attendance and help with socialisation and older children received more specialist support, such as counselling.
Children were described as being confused and upset and of low mood and very uncomfortable at school when other children were loud.
Children who had experienced domestic abuse often had strong views about contact with the abusive parent. Fathers were three times more likely to be the subject of domestic abuse allegations than mothers.
The research also shows the complexity of cases in which allegations of domestic abuse occur. 89 per cent of cases with domestic abuse allegations also involved other safeguarding concerns such as substance misuse or mental health problems.
The data has helped CAFCASS and Women’s Aid build a picture of what happens in Court in cases where domestic abuse features:
- Family Court Advisers recommended either indirect or no contact in over a quarter of cases where domestic abuse is alleged.
- Unsupervised contact was ordered at the first hearing in 23 per cent of cases involving such allegations; 44 per cent of cases at the same point had some sort of contact ordered.
- Where the Order at the final hearing was known, it was less common for unsupervised contact to be ordered in cases featuring allegations of domestic abuse.
- Where a domestic abuse allegation was made, supervised or supported contact was more likely to be ordered at the first and final hearing in cases, as was indirect or no contact.
- In the majority of cases featuring domestic abuse allegations where unsupervised contact was ordered, such contact had been taking place prior to the application to Court.