There had been previous extensive custody proceedings in the USA which had only formally ended less than two months before the mother’s application for a child arrangements order in the UK. There were no findings made of domestic abuse, although some mention of ‘harmful conflict’ a psychological report prepared in that case. A shared custody arrangement was ordered in that matter.
The mother’s application was prompted by an incident in a hospital where the mother took the child for a pre-admission appointment and the father allegedly acted in an overbearing and abusive manner and slammed the door into the mother whilst she was carrying the youngest child.
At the first hearing the mother withdrew her application for a fact-finding, stating that she wasn’t saying that the children couldn’t see their father and was happy for them to go on holiday with him.
There was then a CAFCASS report whereby the CAFCASS officer spoke to both children but did not see them with either parent. The oldest child reported he wanted to see his dad more and was happy to go visit his father. The oldest child had previously reported to the GP that his father was mean and shouted at him. The youngest child said that his father made good food but that he shouted at them, telling them off, for example when he and his brother were fighting. He also said he felt bad when his father said bad things about his mum. When doing ‘feeling safe’ work he said he felt safe with his mother and not at his dad’s house.
The CAFCASS officer stated that he found mother’s account plausible, and that the descriptions of father’s presentation were similar to that he himself experienced. He recommended a psychiatric report, and concluded that the children and their mother needed a break from direct arrangements whilst the father took responsibility for addressing his behaviour. He said he had considered recommending that direct contact be reduced but took the view that the father’s response to that would intensify the difficulties for the children. The psychiatric report concluded that he did not suffer from any mental illness or personality disorder, but did not go further. The CAFCASS officer then produced an addendum report which concluded the following: ‘I acknowledge that domestic abuse allegations are disputed, but in the event that clarity is provided either by admissions being made or via fact finding hearing, risks to [the children] would be reduced by their father’s attendance on a Domestic Abuse Perpetrator’s programme’. Despite this, a fact-finding was not further considered at a DRA, probably because of the focus on the need for a psychiatric assessment.
Read the full summary on Family Law Week.