Cygnet Law, a family law specialist solicitor based in Redcar, has praised the recent action of 123 MPs across the country who have called for an independent inquiry into where children are placed by family courts following custody rulings.
The MPs, who represent seven different parties, including MP for the Redcar Constituency, Anna Turley, have signed a letter to Justice Secretary David Gauke, demanding that family courts take into account a holistic view of both parents’ situation before awarding unsupervised visitation.
This comes in the wake of at least four children found to have been murdered by a parent in the past five years after access was granted by a family court.
Cygnet Law has backed the move for an independent inquiry, as its team has also supported a number of domestic violence survivors as well as representing parties in family court.
Louise White, a solicitor at Cygnet Law, said: “Family Courts will fundamentally start from the position that the best outcome for the child is to have some sort of relationship with both parents. However, given that an estimated 2 million adults will experience some form of domestic violence each year, it needs to be fully understood that this is not always the best option.
“The safety and wellbeing of the child should always be paramount in any custody hearing, and a parent who has a history of domestic violence, against a child, partner or previous partner, or crimes such as sexual assault or rape should undergo the highest levels of scrutiny before being allowed unsupervised visitation.
“With the recent introduction of Clare’s Law, there is more opportunity for individuals to access information about previous episodes of domestic violence, and this should always be considered when making visitation arrangements.
“We have worked with a number of parents who have been terrified that their child will be placed for unsupervised periods with a former partner who has abused or assaulted them in the past, and that this will put the child in danger. In these cases, we would always push for the court to look at all relevant evidence and take this into account before making a decision.
“I applaud the actions of the MPs, including our own MP Anna Turley, who have spoken up to call for reform in how these decisions are made, and who are considering the lasting damage that placing a child with an unsuitable parent can have.”
Anna Turley, MP for the Redcar Constituency, said: “Family courts are meant to be there to protect rape and domestic abuse survivors and their children but in some cases the law is failing these families, putting children at risk and allowing perpetrators to taunt their victims. Women should not have to fight to keep their children away from men with a history of violence, including rape and murder.
“Cygnet Law have an excellent record in this area representing victims in Redcar & Cleveland, and given their vast experience, their support for our cross-party letter calling for an inquiry only strengthens the case that the law needs to change.”