What to do when your ex-partner takes out private law proceedings to access your children

Safeguarding children following the breakdown of a relationship.
Safeguarding children following the breakdown of a relationship.

I married my partner in 2014. I have three children with him all aged under seven. I separated from him six months ago and he has not seen the children since.

I have been a victim of domestic abuse and I am receiving support from an IDVA. I have recently received court papers in relation to the children and I have been contacted by CAFCASS to arrange a telephone appointment. I am not really sure what to do and would like some advice.

The breakdown of a marriage is difficult for both adults and children. It is really good that you are receiving support from an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) as you are accepting the help available around you.

From the information you have provided it seems like your ex-partner has made a private law children application.

This is a Child Arrangements Order under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989.

A Child Arrangements Order deals with two issues; whom the children are to live with and whom the children are to spend time with.

The application will state what your ex-partner is seeking, and given he has not seen the children for five months, he may have made an application for contact in order to spend time with the children.

CAFCASS is an independent organisation which become involved in private law children proceedings in order to inform the court on what it believes is in the child’s best interests.

If you have not attended court on this matter then it will be listed for a First Hearing and Dispute Resolution Appointment (FHDRA) and before this hearing CAFCASS contact both parties to establish what has happened and if there are any safeguarding concerns i.e. domestic abuse.

CAFCASS will prepare a safeguarding letter before the FHDRA and provide the court with their advice/recommendations.

Usually in private law proceedings, a child is not party to proceedings unless there are particular circumstances which make the case complex.

The court may order for the CAFCASS officer to prepare a S7 welfare report.

In cases of domestic abuse, the court may schedule a Finding of Fact hearing to establish the allegations of domestic abuse first before it directs any contact.

It is extremely important you attend the appointment with CAFCASS to ensure you inform them of the domestic abuse that has taken place in the relationship.

I would urge you to seek legal advice in relation to private law children proceedings.

If you wish to discuss this matter further, do not hesitate to contact Ben Hoare Bell on 0191 565 3112 or email us at advice@benhoarebell.co.uk