Child abuse
Child law

Defending allegations of abuse in children cases

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James Harbottle
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Defending allegations of abuse in children cases

Child Law Team
Sarah Hindle – Senior Associate Solicitor – Head of Children Law Team

Much has quite rightly been written about the victims of domestic abuse in the context of court proceedings regarding arrangements for children. It is, of course, essential that the court takes such abuse into account when deciding what order to make regarding the children.

But what about the alleged abuser? What if the allegations of abuse made against them are completely untrue? Unfortunately, false allegations of abuse are often made in children proceedings, not just to support the accuser’s case, but also to enable them to access legal aid, which is generally only available in private law children proceedings to victims of domestic abuse.

A parent accused of domestic abuse faces the awful prospect of their relationship with their children being severely restricted should the court accept the allegations. It is therefore essential that untrue allegations of abuse are properly defended, preferably with the assistance of expert legal advice.


Duty to investigate

There is a commonly held misconception that the courts are biased in favour of the alleged victim of abuse, especially if they are the mother. However, this is simply not true. The court will investigate the allegations in an impartial way, and will find the allegations unproven if they are not supported by the evidence.

When abuse allegations are made by a parent involved in court proceedings regarding arrangements for their children the court is under a duty to investigate the allegations “as soon as possible and fairly”. This will usually involve having a ‘fact-finding’ hearing, at which each party is given an opportunity to give evidence.

The court will then consider the evidence, and decide whether or not each of the allegations is proven.

The importance given by the court to finding out the truth of domestic abuse allegations, and the fact that the court will not always find in favour of the alleged victim, were demonstrated by a recent case that took place in the Family Court in London.


The need for conclusionsChild abuse

The case concerned a mother’s application for (amongst other things) an order that three of her five children, who were then living with the father, should live with her.

In support of her application she made what the judge calledextensive and extremely serious allegations of domestic abuse” against the father, including that the father had groomed her when she was 15 years old, that the father had forced her to work as a sex worker, and that the father had subjected her to serious domestic violence, including stabbing her in the stomach with a screwdriver and threatening to kill her.

The father denied the allegations.

In the event, the mother’s case quickly unravelled, and she decided not to pursue her application, although she maintained the truth of her allegations against the father.

However, the court was not prepared to let the matter stand. For the sake of the children, conclusions needed to be reached regarding the mother’s allegations. Accordingly, a fact-finding hearing went ahead, despite the mother not taking part.

At the hearing the judge found that all of the available evidence pointed to the mother being dishonest when it suited her to be so. The judge was satisfied that the mother’s allegations against the father had not been established. Indeed, he was satisfied that the father’s account was true, and that the allegations made by the mother had been almost entirely fabricated.


Getting helpMeeting about Defending allegations of abuse in children cases

Being wrongfully accused of serious abuse by the other parent of your children can be both shocking and extremely distressing. As indicated above, it is important to get expert legal advice, as quickly as possible. We can provide you with the advice you need. To find out more, and to get started with one of our specialist lawyers, click here.




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