Domestic violence/abuse/drug or alcohol problems and mental health issues
Parents have a DUTY to protect their children from abuse and when the court and social services get involved they have to rapidly assess whether there has been any harm or whether there is a genuine physical or psychological risk of harm to a child and whether the parent with care of the child is taking all necessary steps to protect the children or whether they need to step in.
As Warrington family lawyers, we have experience of dealing with complex private law Children Act cases. We are often involved in cases where there has been; domestic abuse (including sexual abuse).
What we can help you with?
First and foremost; if the abuse is still ongoing you may want to consider calling the police for help or applying for an injunction and/or reporting the issue to social services, your doctor or the school.
More information is set out below this list of services. The costs quoted are estimates based upon a typical case and do not constitute a quote.
AN Law as Warrington solicitors are frequently asked to help with the following matters in complex Children Act cases;
- Preparing detailed witness statements – £600 + VAT (small witness statements on small points are substantially cheaper).
- Preparing a Scott schedule – very important that the allegations are pleaded in the way a judge can simply decide whether it is proven or not. – £250 + vat
- Arranging supervised contact – if any risk of harm to the children including psychological harm because of the way – £100 + vat
- Arranging drug/ alcohol testing – £100 + vat plus fee of test (circa £500 + VAT).
- Obtaining police information £100 + VAT plus payment to the Police (extremely variable).
- Preparing statements for third party witnesses £200 + VAT
- Analysing whether you are a vulnerable witness/ Protecting you from cross-examination
- Getting medical information £50 + VAT plus circa £50 doctors fee
- If facing false allegations – defend you – we can do cross examination
- Instructing expert barristers to deal with these matters/ ground rules hearing £1,000 + VAT.
- Preparing compliant court bundles and court orders £350 + VAT.
Normally witnesses face direct questioning from their opponents. This is called cross-examination. In Children Act cases more and more people are choosing to represent themselves. The consequence of this is that there has been a rise in the number of victims being aggressively questioned in front of the court by their abusers. The courts are keen to prevent this from happening and have introduced rules as to how vulnerable witnesses should be dealt with. AN Law as Warrington family solicitors have been successful in allowing vulnerable witnesses to avoid direct questioning by their abusers in the past. We have negotiated for screens to be introduced so that the victim does not have to see their abuser. We have negotiated for the victim to give evidence via video link. We have negotiated for questions to be put in written form in a form approved by the Judge.
If you are the victim of false allegations, then you may find yourself prevented from closely questioning your accuser directly. If you instruct AN Law we can arrange for a barrister to represent you at the finding of fact hearing in order that the other party can be closely and effectively questioned about their allegations.
AN Law as Warrington family law solicitors we specialise in Children Act cases and are often called upon to make urgent applications to the court. It is essential that the question of whether allegations of harm to the children is going to form a core part of the case is considered before the first appointment takes place and if it is it is essential directions are obtained aimed at obtaining and preserving evidence (police, doctors, schools and other witnesses) for the court to consider at a later date. It is often necessary to ask the court to make a protective specific issue order and or an injunction aimed at keeping the children safe until matters can be resolved.
Finding of fact
If issues of abuse are identified, then consideration as to whether a finding of fact is required should be established at an early stage.
Where allegations of abuse have been raised which may, if proved, be relevant to the question of contact or how contact is operated then it is not normally appropriate prior to that hearing to make an order for interim contact.
Notwithstanding this there may be sufficient grounds upon which to proceed without the need of a finding of fact hearing.
The usual process/what a finding of fact hearing means
The court will usually consider whether a finding of fact hearing is necessary at the first hearing, upon reviewing the evidence available to it and recommendations of CAFCASS and indeed the views of either party. Sometimes the court may also need further evidence/information before it is able to give directions as to the suitability of a finding of fact hearing. The evidence will usually take the form of a schedule of allegations, statements from parties, school letters, police disclosure etc.
Consideration will also need be to given to whether a party is a vulnerable witness. This is more common when the perpetrator is a litigant in person and there is a possibility of them cross-examining the victim. If a person is considered to be a vulnerable witness, then the court may need to give directions as to a ground rules hearing. This hearing will be before the finding of fact hearing and will focus upon how evidence will be given at the finding of fact hearing e.g. via a video link whereby the witness has to answer questions written down by the perpetrator or via the judge.
At the finding of fact hearing you will be expected to give evidence and so will anyone that has written any supporting witness statements on your behalf. You are usually examined by your lawyer and then cross-examined by the other party’s lawyer.
At the conclusion of evidence the court will usually provide judgement as to whether the allegations made are proved or not proved. Sometimes judgements can be written and may take longer to know what the court has decided.
If I prove domestic abuse does this mean that my ex won’t see the children?
No, previous infliction of abuse by a person seeking contact with a child or the person with care of that child is not in itself an automatic a prohibition to contact. It is, however, a factor which will be of significance when the court considers any application.
What happens after a finding of fact hearing
The case will not usually come to an end after this hearing. What usually happens is that the findings are carefully communicated to a CAFCASS officer who will then prepare a s7 report dealing with whether or not contact should take place in light of any findings that are made and also what further measures might be available to protect the children.