The breakdown of a relationship is a challenging time emotionally for both parties involved, but when you throw children into the mix, it can become toxic. Too often, if a woman is a victim of coercive control and domestic abuse, removing herself and her children from that situation takes an incredible amount of strength and resilience.
While there are legal systems in place designed to protect the rights of the victims in these circumstances, the reality is often completely different. The Children’s Act 1989 requires the family court to place the welfare of the child as the court’s primary consideration when making decisions on behalf of children. The court will, therefore, always base its decisions on what it believes to be in the best interest of the child.
However, a seasoned perpetrator of control will know what needs to be done to manipulate the system accordingly, and there are too many cases of women and their children having to undergo and relive the trauma of abuse and control again and again while undergoing these legal proceedings.
There are several different orders that can be taken out when making arrangements for children, and it is important to know which is best for a specific situation. This blog clarifies the next steps that a woman needs to consider when establishing a separate life away from her abuser.
What is a child arrangement order in the UK?
Your first port of call is a child arrangement order. This order stipulates where your child lives, when that child spends time with each parent, and what other types of contact can take place, such as phone calls, school meetings and other events outside of the normal daily routine.
How long does a child arrangement order last in the UK?
Depending on the circumstances, a specific date can be made on the order. However, in general, the order will be kept in place until the child turns 16, which is the age at which the courts believe a child is capable of deciding how much contact they want to have with their other parent.
Please bear in mind that if the courts rule against you, you can make an appeal within 21 days. However, the order is legally binding, and should you break it, then this would be considered a breach, and you would be fined accordingly.
What is a special guardianship order?
A special guardianship order is usually taken out by someone other than a child’s parents, such as a grandparent, relative, friend or foster parent. If the child is unable to live with either birth parent, then a special guardianship order will place that child in someone’s permanent care until they are 18 years old.
What is a specific issue order in the UK?
When any dispute arises between parents about, for example, whether a parent with care of the child should be able to relocate to a different area, whether or not the child should be given vaccinations, or whether a child should be able to go on holiday with one of their parents, a parent can apply for a specific issue order.
This is usually the last resort when the parents cannot reach an agreement, and a family court will only take on such a case if there has been evidence of mediation between the parents relating to this matter. For many women, though, such mediation can be re-traumatising. Obstructing and objecting to simple one-off arrangements can be a source of control and abuse for their ex-partner, being deliberately obtuse in order to continue exerting their sense of power and control.
At Affordable Justice, we encourage our clients to request mediation on a ‘shuttle basis’, which does not require the parties to come face to face in any direct contact. This can significantly reduce the fear and anxiety a woman has around pursuing an SIO and takes away that control that her former partner endeavours to exert.
What is a prohibited steps order?
A prohibited steps order can be taken out against the parent who has legal responsibility, preventing them from doing something specifically set out in the PSO without the permission of the court. Generally, this is carried out in areas relating to where a child lives, where a child goes to school, and whether or not the child’s name should be changed.
Undergoing any process at a family court relating to children’s orders can be a traumatic time for women and their children who have already undergone years of control and abuse. There are significant areas in which a former partner can continue to exert their control.
Affordable Justice is a non-profit firm of solicitors that helps women reclaim that control while going through painful legal processes. If you are seeking representation by family law solicitors across Doncaster, Leeds, Bradford and the rest of the UK, contact us now. Our fees are a third of normal commercial rates.