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Domestic Abuse and Child Contact

If you and your partner have children then they may use this as a way of keeping contact with you and trying to continue to control you after the relationship has ended. The breakdown of any relationship where there are children can be difficult but where the relationship has been abusive it can be even more so as your partner tries to keep their control of you and the children.

How contact can be used to continue abuse

You may want to try to keep them involved in the children’s lives and to keep things as ok as possible for the children however your partner may try to use this against you by:

  • Changing when they will see the children at short notice (bringing them back early, picking them up late, not taking them at all)
  • Bringing the children back later than you agreed and not letting you know why or answering your calls/texts to find out where they are
  • Telling the children things and using them to pass messages to you
  • Being abusive towards you when they picks the children up or drops them off
  • Not paying you maintenance when they agreed they would particularly if they knows you are about to go on holiday or do something nice

While it’s true that children need both a mum and a dad what they don’t need a parent who is abusive as this teaches them:

  • Violence and threats get you what you want
  • When people hurt each other, they do not get in trouble
  • Victims are to blame for what happens to them
  • People who love you can hurt you
  • Anger isn’t healthy and you shouldn’t be or show anger
  • Unhealthy, unequal relationships are normal
  • You have to deal with your problems by yourself
  • Adults don’t keep their promises
  • Bad things happen no matter how hard I try to be good
  • Life is not fair.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities

If you were married or your child was born after 4 May 2016 and your partner is named on the birth certificate then they have parental rights and responsibilities for your children. This means they have rights to see the children, to be kept informed and be part of decision
making for the children.

If your partner has threatened to remove your children from you then you can speak to a solicitor about starting court proceedings to have the residence of the children agreed, this is where the sheriff decides where the children should stay most of the time. Without a residence order if your partner has parental rights and responsibilities and they remove the children from your care the police are unable to get involved unless there is a concern for their welfare. You would need to go to court to try to have your children returned to your
care.

Organising Contact

If you want to organise contact between your partner and your children there are a number of ways you can do this:

  • You can speak to them directly and agree between you when they will see the children
  • You can use family mediation to come to an agreement
  • You can speak to a solicitor and get a formal minute of agreement between the two of you (this can be based on an agreement you have come to yourselves or can be negotiated with the solicitors help)
  • You can speak to a solicitor and they can negotiate with your partners solicitor but if no agreement is possible then it may have to go before the sheriff at a child welfare hearing.

If a sheriff makes a court order in relation to contact then you must follow this, even if the children are saying they don’t want to go you must make every effort to get the children to attend.

Your local Women’s Aid group can help you find family a law solicitor or help you with finding ways of managing this contact.

Managing Contact

If you are managing contact between you and your partner the following may be helpful

  • Put in place boundaries and stick to them, agree when they will see the children and for how long and keep to this. Consistency is good for the children.
  • Consider setting up an email address or phone number which you only give to your partner to use, this allows you to choose when you receive and deal with this.
  • Think about where you will do handovers, try to do this in a way which limits your direct contact with your partner (is it possible that they can pick the kids up and drop them off at school/nursery, can you have family/friends help with this, can you use a contact centre, where is a good public place to meet for handovers).
  • Think about using a communication book so you can let your partner know what is happening with the kids and they can do the same, this cuts down on the need for direct communication.
  • Keep a diary of what happens and when as if the case ends up in court you will be able to show the reasons behind any decisions you have made.