Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

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Dramastatics
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Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2021 9:12 pm

Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Dramastatics » Mon Nov 08, 2021 1:17 pm

Hi,
Recently joined this forum, I really need some advice on a current situation I find myself in, I will change some details so it is not completely outing, but the context is the same.
The background leading up to this is as follows.
Last year my daughter and I fled horrific domestic abuse, leading up the fleeing, there had been multiple referrals to Children’s Services by different authorities. Every Police visit, I was encouraged to call the NCDV etc. A significant assault took place on me where I was punched, strangled, and stamped on by ex-partner, father to our child – this happened in front of our daughter who was utterly hysterical, four police officers had to cart him away. This led to the Police making a domestic abuse notification to Children’s Services. I finally found the courage to engage with DV services and was assigned an IDVA who made a MARAC referral and out of the MARAC referral a Child Protection Officer was assigned to us.
The Child Protection Officer made an emergency home visit to which I completely broke down and told her I couldn’t cope with the abuse anymore and I wanted to leave but had nowhere to go as of yet, I was honest and told her I was shouting at my child, and that the abuse was seriously impacting my parenting and our daughter deserved more. I informed the CP officer that not only was my ex partner abusive to me, he was abusive to our daughter, this includes but not limited to, shaking her, starving her, force feeding her, locking her in a dark room and refusing to let me comfort her, pinching her, smothering her mouth when crying, calling her a ****, calling her a mistake, saying she had mental problems like me and choking her.
A Section 47 enquiry was immediately initiated, and I was advised there would be a Child Protection Conference, however the mitigating circumstances were that I advised the CP officer that I was going to leave him. I told her that I had to do this safely and that he assumed we were still together, she told me not to rock the boat and that once I do flee, I am to immediately cut contact.
It took me several weeks to find a place to live, which I did – the day I went to view the Property, my ex refused to let me take our daughter, it was my only chance of us getting away from him so I had to leave my daughter behind for a couple of hours, when I returned she was hysterical and I do not know what he did to her, she literally ran to me shaking. Immediately I knew I couldn’t stay there and said I was taking her with me, he blocked my path and said I can **** off but I wasn’t taking her anywhere. I started packing our things, and he was throwing all of her belongings out of the bags I was packing. As I went to leave, he said if I walked out the door with her he would call the Police, he stood in my path and did exactly as he did, he called the Police and said I had threatened to take his daughter during his contact time.
The Police arrived (newly qualified officers) and spoke to us individually, they referred the matter to out of hours children’s services and they advised as DD was there in her “home” she was to stay there with her Father and I was to leave. I was utterly inconsolable, I tried to put my daughter down and walk out but she ran after me, it ripped my heart into two. The Police officers had to pick me up from the floor and take me outside, one either side of me.
They told me to immediately refer to a Solicitor, I made a promise to myself that would be the last time he ever saw her.
A couple of days later, I was back at his property packing some things up, it would be three weeks till we could move to our new property, I received a call from the Child Protection Officer, by some extraordinary chance, she was at my daughters Nursery with the Police and they were engaging in a strategy discussion. She informed me that he had called the Nursery to say he was collecting our daughter tonight and would be bringing her in the following morning and he wanted a meeting with Nursery staff. The CP officer said I had to flee there and then, I had to pack our belongings, collect my daughter from Nursery and she would arrange temporary accommodation/refuge for us.
What followed was 90 minutes of frantic packing of belongings, I literally walked out with every single thing for my daughter and left all of my belongings behind, to date I have never collected them.
We were put in a refuge, and after arriving there to safety, the CP Officer called him to let him know that myself and our daughter had left for good, and he is to seek legal advice with regards to contact.
We stayed in the refuge for a short time, then a guardian angel of a friend put us up for two weeks, then we finally moved into our property. I remember our first night here, no furniture, nothing – I just sobbed and sobbed, my daughter and I slept on the floor together, she was so scared and so was I. My ex has currently no idea where we are and where we live, he is unaware of where our daughter goes to Nursery or where I work, he has none of my contact details, I changed everything, I changed car, I blocked him on absolutely everything.
After relocating, a MARAC to MARAC transfer was done, I was advised my daughter would be placed on a Child In Need plan.
Within a few days, I was then told the case would be closed as I had safeguarded her and it is not believed she would be at risk any further.
I was distraught, this was the time at the most I needed the most assistance and so did my daughter.
Several months went past, and we heard nothing – 6 months later, he then puts an application to the Family Court.
We had our first hearing last year, the C2 (Safeguarding) letter by CAFCASS stated all the facts, my exes extensive police history was revealed, it was revealed there was domestic history with 3 other victims.
As a result, CAFCASS said that no form of interim contact would be recommended or appropriate. I am forgetting to tell you, at this point, my ex – textbook NARCISSIST has now claimed to be the victim of domestic abuse and spun the tables around and said I “unilaterally” removed our daughter from the house.
My ex then recommends paying for independent social workers to supervise contact, AGAINST the recommendation of CAFCASS, and without hearing directly from the officer the Judge agrees.
However, in doing so – upon receipt of our Court order, CAFCASS wrote back to the Court to ask the Judge to revise his order for interim contact.
Que an emergency hearing with a very senior judge, the judge opened the hearing by saying he was horrified by what he had read from CAFCASS, my Solicitor advised me to offer contact in a contact centre and not “hide” behind the CAFCASS recommendation, despite a CAFCASS officer stating in our hearing the risks as to what ordering contact would have.
Anyway, long story short – contact too place in a contact centre for several months. Due to behaviour issues by him and communication issues, the last centre has now refused to facilitate contact further.
I bring you up to the present day, my ex has made multiple death threats to me, he has breached the non-molestation order, he has called the former local authority demanding where his daughter is and where she resides, he has poured petrol and sent hate mail to my former family home where I used to grow up, and subsequently in the area that contact was taking place.
Children’s Services are now being engaged again, there has been several referrals by different authorities, a Doctor has made a referral, my daughters Nursery have made a referral after she exhibited some extremely disturbing behaviour following a contact day. This has led to a Team around the family meeting taking place in a few weeks’ time.
I received another call from a Social Worker today to say that Family Solutions may be engaged following the outcomes of the TAF meeting.
Daughter has not seen her father for nearly 4 months now due to the disbanding of the previous contact centre and the fact we cannot agree to the use of a new contact centre.
So, naturally he has now applied for enforcement action – we are listed for our next hearing in March 2022 next year.
My Solicitor is UTTERLY useless, I am legally aided and have researched changing solicitors.
I know that Children’s Services cannot overrule a Court Order, however they have written on my daughters record that they have advised me to stop taking her, especially in this interim period.
We are waiting for a Section 7 to be ordered, the Judge has anticipated this being done by the Former Local Authority with input from CAFCASS, however my ex is stating CAFCASS are biased and that the Section 7 should be authored by an ISW of his choosing.
What can I do, I am so scared – I have had multiple police visits, multiple calls from children services?
I honestly feel like, I am about to be murdered. I honestly feel like he is coming for me.
My daughters Health Visitor has been amazing, she’s really trying to advocate for my daughter, she did a home visit a few weeks ago and asked her about her father, the reaction was utterly horrifying, my daughter cowered in a corner and begged the HV not to make her go and that she was scared and didn’t want to see him. She’s expressed that she will write directly to the Court, she has raised her concerns with CAFCASS but as CAFCASS have no current involvement, they have told her to direct to Social Care.
I genuinely feel I am not protecting my daughter. But I am now also scared of being reprimanded for contact breaking down.
This psychotic man cannot find out where we live ever.
I do not have a Solicitor I believe in and that is advocating for me.
Children’s Services abandoned us and it’s been a desperate struggle to get them to reengage with us.
I am speaking to a new solicitor on Monday as I’m really worried about continuing with my current solicitor.
Please can someone offer me some practical advice or just words of wisdom?

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:57 pm

Re: Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Tue Nov 09, 2021 6:01 pm

Dear Dramastatics,

Welcome to the forum and thank you for your post. My name is Suzie and I will be responding to you today.

Domestic abuse

Firstly, I am very sorry to hear about the domestic abuse that you have been subjected to. You don’t say if you have received any specific support for yourself around this (other than being previously allocated an IDVA and accommodated in a refuge) so you may find it helpful to look on our website here as you will find information about support services and organisations for victims of domestic abuse.

When you attend the Team Around the Family meeting in a couple of weeks’ time I would suggest that you ask the social worker if there are any organisations available locally that work with children who have witnessed domestic violence as your daughter would benefit from specific counselling or support around this.

Although you may have enough to be managing at the moment you may also find it helpful to attend a course in future which would help you understand more about what domestic abuse can look like and how you can spot it early on. This may be helpful to you in any future relationships you become involved in so that you are able to keep yourself and your daughter as safe as possible. The Freedom Programme provides this kind of course for free and is all online.

Legal support

You say that you have a solicitor however you do not feel supported by them and are looking at alternative options. If you are unhappy with your solicitor then it is always advisable to seek an alternative and you can find the official database on The Law Society’s website. You may also find it helpful to contact Rights of Women who have an advice line and Child Law Advice who can also offer advice around private family law.

Contact

You say that you are worried about being reprimanded for stopping contact between your daughter and her father and that there is a hearing listed for next March as he has applied for an enforcement order. Given that children’s services have advised you to stop the contact for the time being and other professionals such as the health visitor and nursery staff have raised concerns about your daughter having contact with her father, I would suggest that you have little need to be worried about being reprimanded. I would advise you to continue working closely with the professionals involved, including children’s services, and discuss with them their thoughts about contact and what would be best for your daughter. You should keep at the forefront of your mind the safety and wellbeing of your daughter; if this means that you and children’s services feel that contact cannot go ahead safely then you will be showing that you are prioritising your daughter’s needs by stopping contact.

Children’s services

You were not supported by children’s services in the past when you needed them, but it is positive to hear that they are now offering some support to you and your daughter. You might find it helpful to read our guide to Working with a social worker as it contains advice and tips around working in a positive way with any social worker involved. It is always best to work openly and honestly with children’s services, acknowledging the risks that exist and showing that you are prioritising your daughter’s safety and are willing to make changes to ensure her wellbeing. You can also find lots of information about children’s services on our website here, including the different ways that they may become involved.

You say that you were upset when children’s services closed your case previously as you felt that you needed support from them at this point. It sounds as if children’s services are likely to now stay involved for the time being, however if in future they decide to close their involvement and you disagree with this decision then you should contact the social worker in writing asking

- Why they have decided to close their involvement

- For an explanation to be given in writing and within 10 working days

- For details of the local threshold document for getting help. This should set out when the local children’s services give help to children and families.

If the explanation given is unclear or unreasonable, or if no explanation is given then I would suggest that you make a complaint to children’s services. You can find detailed advice about making a complaint here.

You describe some very concerning recent behaviour from your ex-partner including breaking the non-molestation order, threatening you and sending hate mail. I would encourage you to report every single incident to the police to ensure that a record is kept of his behaviour and abuse. Similarly it would be a good idea to ensure that you keep children’s services up to date with any incidents by informing them in writing (by emailing the social worker for example).

I hope you find this helpful and should you wish to speak to an adviser, please telephone our free confidential advice line on 0808 801 0366. The advice line is open from 9.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday. You are also welcome to post again in this forum – please do get in contact if you need any further advice.

Best wishes,

Suzie

Dramastatics
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2021 9:12 pm

Re: Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Dramastatics » Tue Nov 09, 2021 10:10 pm

Dear Suzie,

Thank you for your reply.

Particularly this element:

Contact

You say that you are worried about being reprimanded for stopping contact between your daughter and her father and that there is a hearing listed for next March as he has applied for an enforcement order. Given that children’s services have advised you to stop the contact for the time being and other professionals such as the health visitor and nursery staff have raised concerns about your daughter having contact with her father, I would suggest that you have little need to be worried about being reprimanded. I would advise you to continue working closely with the professionals involved, including children’s services, and discuss with them their thoughts about contact and what would be best for your daughter. You should keep at the forefront of your mind the safety and wellbeing of your daughter; if this means that you and children’s services feel that contact cannot go ahead safely then you will be showing that you are prioritising your daughter’s needs by stopping contact.

I have asked for the HV to send a letter directly to the court, as well as the police.

It appears that I may be in Court within 7 days as my ex has applied for an urgent enforcement hearing.

I now have no legal representation as I have asked my current solicitor not to represent me and the new solicitor who were going to assist now have decided our case is too complex and they do not have capacity to undertake assistance.

I am very scared :(
Can the Court force me to go through with this hearing as Litigant in Person? I am desperately trying to request a new solicitor under a transfer of certificate.

Can you advise how Children's Services can assist me in respect of going back to court for enforcement action? Should I ask them to send a letter to the Court also?

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
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Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:57 pm

Re: Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Nov 15, 2021 5:41 pm

Dear Dramastatics,

Thankyou for your further post and for letting us know the update with your situation.

I am aware that given the time it has taken for me to respond to your post you may have already had the court hearing. However just in case not I hope the following is helpful.

Firstly, you can request that the court adjourn the hearing as you have not had the opportunity to get a new solicitor, but it will be their decision as to whether they allow this adjournment. If it is the case that you have to represent yourself at the hearing then you can find useful information on the Child Law Advice website, the advicenow website, the Support Through Court website and from Rights of Women.

I would certainly recommend that you speak with children’s services and ask for them to put in writing that they advised you to stop contact between your daughter and her father. You can then submit this to the court with the rest of the paperwork.

I hope that this is helpful and please do post back if you need any further advice, or you can call the helpline on 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 09:30-15:00).

Best wishes,
Suzie

Dramastatics
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2021 9:12 pm

Re: Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Dramastatics » Fri Nov 19, 2021 1:04 pm

Thanks Suzie for your response.
Fortunately my transfer of legal aid was confirmed, my Solicitor is now piecing together everything and will be organising for me to be represented by a Barrister for the enforcement hearing.
I have been provided with the MARAC executive summary, 2 letters from two different police forces, this week there was a Team around the family meeting with a Chair from Social Care, Health Visitor and Nursery, they all were unanimous that me stopping contact was the right thing to do and that my daughter needs trauma therapy.
This will be noted in the meeting minutes.
Will this be something I can ask my Solicitor to submit to the Court?
I'm worried that contact will be resumed straight away without so much as safeguarding checks. Even the Police have said I am not safe to take my daughter to the contact centre because he is a violent stalker with domestic history between 3 different police forces.

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Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 3255
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:57 pm

Re: Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Wed Nov 24, 2021 4:18 pm

Dear Dramastatics

Thank you for your further post. Good to see that you now have a new solicitor dealing with your case.
It must be very important for you to know that all professionals agree that suspending contact was the right thing for you to do.

Turning now to your specific question whether you will be able to have the information from recent meetings submitted to the court, I think this is something you will need to discuss with your solicitor. It is possible for you to exhibit information to your statement, or your solicitor can ask for a specific direction from the court for evidence to be filed with the court.

It is unlikely that the court will decide regarding contact without having information from children’s services since they are involved with you and your daughter. The court will consider what is best for your daughter and her welfare is a very important consideration in coming to a decision.

Your legal team will advise you about the best case that you can put forward to the court regarding the daughter’s father and her safety and yours.

I hope this helps

Best wishes

Suzie

Dramastatics
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2021 9:12 pm

Re: Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Dramastatics » Thu Nov 25, 2021 11:07 pm

Hi Suzie. Thanks for your response..
Since I updated. I've been told the local authority have now increased their involvement. They attended a professionals meeting with police, idvas, nursery, health visitor, and my employer.. I think they were truly shocked at the extent of the domestic abuse. My daughter now has an allocated social worker and they will be undertaking an independent children's and families assessment. They have said their assessment is independent of the court, however their views are that contact is emotionally harming my daughter and she needs urgent interventional therapy. There is also the threat to my personal safety.
Would you imagine in your professional opinion a judge reordering contact after this being disclosed? My daughters social worker has said it would not be appropriate for them to do the section 7 as it puts us directly in danger as my ex partner will know what local authority we reside in.. They have provided the professional opinion that the former local authority in collaboration with cafcass should do the section 7 with no interim contact which allows intervention for my daughter and for us to access support to deal with the emotional trauma.
My daughters social worker accessed some information from the former local authority and became in receipt of a piece of evidence that evidences his abuse of our daughter, it's a recording of him abusing her.. The social worker was extremely disturbed by this and asked if i reported it to the police as he should be prosecuted. I said i did report it but it was only logged and not investigated. She told me to re report it to my exes local police force. I did this today and they said they could investigate. Did I do the right thing? It's absolutely awful this piece of evidence, truly distressing and heart breaking.

User avatar
Suzie, FRG Adviser
Posts: 3255
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 2:57 pm

Re: Domestic abuse, family court, advice and help needed.

Post by Suzie, FRG Adviser » Mon Nov 29, 2021 3:42 pm

Dear Dramastatics,

Thankyou for your update. You say that a social worker has now been allocated and they will be completing an assessment. You were advised by the social worker to re-report to the police an incident in which your ex-partner was abusing your daughter and the police have advised that they will be investigating this. You are worried about whether this was the right thing for you to do. You would also like to know whether it is likely that a judge would order that contact should go ahead between your ex-partner and daughter despite children’s services stating that they feel that contact is not in her best interests.

Firstly, you can find information on our website here about the assessment process which you may find helpful. It sounds positive that children’s services are taking the situation seriously and involving the professional network to share information to ensure that your daughter is kept safe from potential harm. The assessment should be completed within 45 working days and you should receive a copy of the written report at the end of this process. It may be recommended that your daughter receive support under a child in need plan, or if children’s services are concerned that your daughter is at risk of significant harm then they may hold a child protection conference which could result in your daughter becoming subject to a child protection plan. Either way, the plan put in place should support you and the other professionals involved in your daughter’s life to keep your daughter safe from the risk of harm her father poses.

I would certainly advise you to report any incident of abuse to the police, whether current or historical, perpetrated by your ex-partner towards your daughter (or yourself). Any police investigation will be conducted completely independently of a children’s services assessment and will consider whether your ex-partner has committed a crime. As the social worker advised you to re-report the incident you described, I would suggest that following her advice was sensible.

Finally, I am unable to speculate about what decision the judge will make regarding contact between your ex-partner and daughter as I do not hold all the information. I would suggest that you speak with your solicitor about this as they will likely have experience with similar cases and will be able to give you advice based on all the information they hold. However I can say that the judge will make a decision based on the best interests of your daughter, so the information and professional opinion provided by the local authority should be taken seriously by the judge in their decisions.

I hope that this is helpful. Please post again if you need further advice or want to update us. You can also call our helpline on 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday, 9:30am – 3pm) if you would like to speak with an adviser.

Best wishes,
Suzie

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