The impact of contact on domestic abuse victims

The impact of contact on domestic abuse victims

Family analysis: How will the court approach an application for contact in a case involving allegations of domestic abuse? Ella Calnan, barrister at Fourteen, considers the issues raised in the recent case of Re A.

Original news

Re A (A child) (Supervised contact order: assessment of impact of domestic violence) [2015] EWCA Civ 486, [2015] All ER (D) 198 (May)

The mother appealed against an order providing for the parties' child (R) to have supervised contact with her father. The Court of Appeal, in dismissing the appeal, held, among other things, that it was clear that the judge had given full and proper consideration to each of the relevant factors necessary for the risk assessment required by section 1 of the Children Act 1989 (ChA 1989) and the Family Procedure Rules 2010, SI 2010/2955, PD 12J (FPR 2010). His conclusion that face-to-face contact was in R's best interests, in a supervised setting, was justified on the basis of that risk assessment and was a conclusion that had been well within the range of justifiable welfare determinations.

What key issues did this case raise?

The Court of Appeal considered an appeal against an order providing for weekly supervised contact between a girl of three years and her father. The order under appeal was made following a fact-finding hearing where the judge found that the father had been guilty of abusive sexual conduct towards the mother, including marital rape, during the course of the parties' marriage and made a number of other findings of 'low level' domestic violence perpetrated by the father against the mother.

The mother appealed the order for supervised contact on the following grounds:

  • that despite having made findings of fact against the father, the judge at the welfare stage had minimised the sexual abuse and failed to take any account of the multi-dimensional (sexual, physical, emotional and psychological) and prolonged nature of that abuse--in doing so the judge had ignored the guidance from the Court of Appeal on the impact

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