Can I be made to pay for my abusive ex to see the children?

Can I be made to pay for my abusive ex to see the children?

A recent headline in The Guardian newspaper read: Domestic abuse survivors ‘having to pay for abusers to see children’. Could it really be true that a court will order that a parent who has been abused by the other parent must pay for the other parent too see their children?

The simple answer is that they could, but we really need to look at things in a little more detail to provide a more informative answer.

 

Where abuse is allegeddomestic violence abusive ex

When one parent applies to a court for a child arrangements order providing that they have contact with their child it is sadly not unusual for the other parent to allege that they have been abused by the applying parent.

In such situations the court will investigate the allegations before making any final decision on the contact application, as domestic abuse could clearly affect the arrangements for the child.

This may mean that there will be no contact, or only limited contact, for example supervised contact, until such time as the court has decided whether the abuse allegations are true.

 

‘Contact at all costs’

The law acknowledges that it is usually in the best interests of a child to continue to have a full relationship with both of its parents after they separate, or at least as full a relationship as is possible in the circumstances. Accordingly, the starting point in all cases is that the court will be looking to ensure that the child has contact with the parent with whom they are not living, unless there is a very good reason why contact should not take place.

Critics of the family justice system have said that this amounts to ‘contact at all costs’, but this is not true. The court will not order contact no matter what, and even where it does order contact it often puts restrictions upon the contact, to protect the welfare of the child.

 

Abuse not necessarily a bar to contactDomestic Abuse Bill

It is important to note that just because the court has found that allegations of abuse are true, that does not necessarily mean that the court will not make a contact order.

In such a situation the court has several options.

It may decide that the abuse is not such that it should affect the child’s contact with the abusing parent.

It may decide that the contact should be restricted in some way, to protect the child. For example, it may order that the contact should be overseen by an independent supervisor.

It may decide that there should be no direct contact between the child and the abusing parent. Indirect contact could for example include telephone calls, messaging, or letters.

Or the court could decide that the abuse was so serious that there should be no contact at all, although such cases are unusual.

 

Contact expenseschild law meeting

So why might an abused parent have to pay for contact? What would they have to pay for?

Well, the article in The Guardian specifically mentions two things: the fees of any contact supervisor and travel expenses related to contact, in particular where the parents live some distance apart.

Clearly, these expenses have to paid, for the contact to go ahead. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism by which the state can pay them, so that just leaves the parents. The court will decide which parent should pay, having regard to the means of both parents.

This does mean that in some cases the court will consider it appropriate for both parents to contribute, possibly equally.

So it is true that an abused parent could be required to pay for contact to take place, even where the expense (e.g. supervisor’s fees) is only incurred because of the abuse. There is no rule that says that in such situations the abused parent should not contribute to the expenses.

The reason for this is that the most important thing is what is best for the child. If the court has decided that contact is best for the child, it will try to ensure that contact takes place.legal 500 leading firm logo

However, it should be emphasised that such cases are likely to be very rare: no direct contact may be ordered, there may be no contact expenses to pay, the abused parent will often not have the means to contribute, and the court may in any event order that the abusive parent should pay all of the expenses. In short, the headline could give a misleading impression – as an abuse survivor you may be required to contribute towards contact expenses, but it would be quite wrong to believe that this is a common occurrence.

Previous Post Next Post