LEGAL EAGLE: Violent husband wants to see our kids

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I recently separated from my husband because he was violent. He is asking to see the children and I’m afraid that he will run away with them.

He is a great dad and can look after them, but I can’t risk him taking them away from me. What can I do?

There are many things that you can do to keep yourself and the children safe, while still promoting a good relationship with their father.

Firstly, you may want to seek a Court Order to protect yourself from your husband’s violent behaviour.  

A Non-Molestation Order, more commonly known as an injunction, can be sought so that your husband is not allowed to communicate with you or come within a certain distance of your home.

It also forbids the obvious things like harassing behaviour and violence. If he does anything once the Order is made which goes against it, he can be arrested and convicted of a criminal offence.

You should see a solicitor for detailed advice about whether this is appropriate in your circumstances.

As long as you are financially eligible for legal aid, you can access this advice free of charge.

Your solicitor will be able to tell you if you are financially eligible.

In relation to the children, there are wide-ranging powers of the court to help you. You would usually have to negotiate and go to mediation before applying to the court, but there are some exceptions to this and it sounds like your circumstances would fall into one or more of these.

The court can make an Order which does not allow your husband to remove the children from your care or from their schools, other than for agreed contact.

Such an Order is really for emergencies where there have been threats to abduct the children. If this isn’t the case, you may be able to apply to the court for an Order clarifying that the children live with you instead.

Once you had an Order from the court confirming this, you could contact the police to return the children to you if your husband refused to.

Legal aid is available to you for advice in this area if you meet certain criteria.  

You can ask your solicitor if you are eligible for legal aid, and whether you need to consider going to court.

Of course, because your husband has been violent to you, it is always advisable to think very carefully about the safety of the children in his care, and whether contact is appropriate and safe.