LEGAL EAGLE: I don't think it's in the children's best interests to have contact with their dad - is there anything I can do?
My ex-partner has applied to court for contact to see our children as I have stopped it due to the children making serious allegations against him. The police were involved, but they did not prosecute him, and he now believes that his contact should resume. Can I do anything about this as I don’t think it is in the children’s best interests to have contact with their father?
Your ex-partner has made an application to court for a Child Arrangements Order. This order states who the children live with and who they spend time with. The starting point for the court is that the children should have a relationship with both parents so long as there are no safeguarding concerns.
Within proceedings a CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer will be appointed as an independent advisor to make recommendations to the court. CAFCASS will speak to you and your ex-partner and you can explain the allegations the children have made. The CAFCASS officer may then be ordered to complete a section 7 report looking into the safeguarding concerns. This report includes an assessment of your situation and gives recommendations to the court as to what is in the best interests of the children. CAFCASS may recommend that the court should consider deciding what the truth of the allegations are in the form of a Fact-Finding Hearing.
A Fact-Finding Hearing would be listed in cases where the decision cannot be made in relation to the time that the children spend with their father until the allegations have been determined.
In this hearing, evidence will be heard by witnesses such as you and your partner. Although the
police did not pursue any criminal proceedings in relation to your children’s allegations, there may
be findings made within family proceedings. The criminal standard of proof is “beyond all reasonable doubt” which means that the court must be certain it happened for the defendant to be guilty.
However, in family and civil proceedings, the standard of proof is lower as it is “on the balance of
probabilities”. This means that the court must be satisfied that the allegations are more likely to be true than untrue.
The interests of the children are the court’s paramount consideration when making any orders. So even if there not enough evidence to pursue a criminal prosecution, there may be enough evidence for a family court to undertake a finding of fact exercise which could result in findings being made.
These findings would have a negative impact in relation to his contact with the children.
Ben Hoare Bell LLP have many specialist family solicitors in the North East. To speak to a solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email [email protected] For further information visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk.