Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Resolution launches new advice for dealing with divorce and domestic abuse to mark White Ribbon Day


On White Ribbon Day, 25 November, family law organisation Resolution releases its new guide for divorcing and separating parents in relationships where domestic abuse is, or has been, a feature.

The new guide, which can be found at www.resolution.org.uk/difficultdivorce, advises parents on dealing with difficult divorce situations, including those characterised by abuse, addiction and parental alienation.  It includes information on how parents can protect themselves from abuse, and how to help children through emotionally difficult situations.

Jane Wilson, a leading domestic abuse specialist at Hall Smith Whittingham in Crewe and chair of Resolution’s Domestic Abuse Committee, comments:

“Divorce and separation are difficult at the best of times, and are made a thousand times more traumatic where there is abuse, addiction or extreme hostility involved. For parents trying to support and shelter their children through this sort of situation, it can be hard to know how to talk to the children about the divorce, and how to balance any arrangements for the child to see their other parent with the risk of the child coming to physical or emotional harm.”

“Often the perpetrator will use the children to maintain control over the domestic abuse sufferer. This can include making demands for time with the children and threatening or taking court proceedings. The perpetrator is not actually interested in more time with the children but just wants to continue controlling interaction with their former partner. Coercive control is usually perpetrated by men.”

“Thousands of families face this situation every day. That’s why we have developed this advice guide, to provide parents dealing with difficult divorce situations with sensible, clear advice.”

Jane’s advice for parents who are concerned about parenting arrangements during abusive divorce situations:

Arrange child handovers in public, or with a degree of separation

“It is emotionally harmful for children to hear or see one parent abusing the other whether that is physically or verbally. The risk of this can be removed by a third party being involved in the handover of the child from one parent to the other so the parents do not have to meet.”

"If the child is old enough to go in or out of the house on his or her own, the risk can be reduced by the parent collecting the child parking outside, remaining in the car and tooting the horn when they arrive or returns. Alternatively, the handover could take place somewhere public such as a car park with the child going from one car to the other or a restaurant or supermarket entrance or somewhere with CCTV cameras.”

Use shuttle mediation to set up parenting arrangements

“It can help to set up a pattern of set dates and times for the children to be with the other parent, to avoid the need for parents to speak to each other.”

“Arrangements can be made either by negotiations between the parties’ solicitors or at mediation.  Legal Aid is available for mediation and you may still be able to access legal aid for legal advice if there has been domestic abuse. Mediation can take place on a shuttled basis, with each of the parents in a separate room and the mediator going like a shuttle between the two. There will be separate times for the parties to arrive and leave. Practical arrangements can be made to ensure safety.”

Use a third party as a go-between

“An arrangement for the children can include, say a third party to contact in case of emergency about the children or arrangements, so the parties do not have each other’s phone numbers. This removes the opportunity for harassment by repeated calls and texts.”

For more information, including advice on talking to children about domestic abuse and divorce, visit www.resolution.org.uk/difficultdivorce, part of Resolution’s new online advice centre for parents that was launched at a special event in Parliament on Tuesday 24 November.

Resolution will also be running a Twitter Q&A session between 1-2pm on the 25th November as part of White Ribbon Day. Questions can be tweeted to a panel of family law and domestic violence specialist lawyers – visit @ResFamilyLaw and use the hashtag #AskResolution to ask a question.

CASE STUDY: FIONA’S STORY

As part of Family Dispute Resolution Week Resolution commissioned ComRes to interview children and young people about their experience of parental divorce. ComRes conducted 5 qualitative interviews lasting 45 minutes with young people in London with experience of parental divorce (whose parents had separated more than a year ago), aged between 16 and 22 face-to-face on the 8th and 20th October 2015.

Fiona’s story (name changed) illustrates some of the difficulties children face with parenting arrangements where domestic abuse has been one of the factors in the parental relationship. Please note that this is part of a larger case study, and all names have been changed and personal details removed for anonymity.
“I think because my mum’s quite protective of us, she thought that the way he disciplined us was a bit too violent and she was abused by him as well.  So, she was very scared that he could do anything […] She was quite protective [over my brother] and at the point where I mentioned when my brother saw him and started crying, I think he was scared that something was going to happen, she just like, ‘Okay, I don’t think you should see them.  I don’t think you should come and see them ever.’
[…] So, yes, that’s probably what made the relationship a bit harder.  So, that’s why we didn’t really see him, because he thought, ‘Okay, fine.  If you don’t want to, then I’m not going to see you,’ and she said to us, ‘If you want to see him, I don’t want to know anything about that.’  He didn’t see why he had to ask for permission to see us or whatever, so I think that made it difficult to see him, and even now, if my brother sees my dad, he runs away […] So, I think that’s probably why we don’t see him.  There wasn’t any, ‘This is what’s going on,’ with my mum.  Not in the form of sitting us down and saying, ‘You’re not going to see your dad any more,’ but it was clear that she didn’t feel safe with him around us by himself.
Up to […] this year, I was happy not seeing him.  I think when I did see him, I was scared as well.  I’m fine not having a relationship with him […] As far as I was concerned he wasn’t worth my time and that, but I think as I’m getting older, I call him my dad - but I wouldn’t really say he was dad, because for the majority of the years he wasn’t acting as one.  Just to know that I tried in the relationship, or even just now we have got into contact […] I have his number now.  So, we do talk but it’s not a strong relationship [...]I think for my brother it’s going to be a lot harder, because my brother still resents him and the divorce and everything that’s happened has affected him.”
“[I think it would good if schools]  had a buddy system, if [someone whose parents were getting divorced] knew someone who was older who had parents who were divorced, they could speak to that buddy.  I think for [my brother], just having someone he could speak to [would help…] it’s still got him to that point where it will take a long time for him to trust someone, to go back to those issues and speak about what’s going on.”

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