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Domestic abuse FAQs for fathers

Domestic abuse is any type of controlling, threatening or violent behaviour between parents, ex partners or family members. It can involve:

It can happen online as well as face to face.

Domestic abuse can take place when people live together or apart. It can occur once couples have separated. And can occur between family members (e.g. a mother-in-law abusing her daughter-in-law or a son victimising his mother).

Research shows that witnessing domestic violence can be very harmful for children. The legal definition of significant harm specifically includes seeing or hearing abuse (see section 31(9) of the Children Act 1989).

Statistics show that in the majority of domestic abuse cases, the perpetrator is male and the adult survivor is female. However, there are male survivors and female perpetrators.

This page aims to answer some of the questions fathers (or men in a parenting role) may have if children’s services become involved with their children because of concerns about domestic abuse.  The questions are grouped together under different headings. This should help to find the information that you need. These are:

1. Early help for fathers and their families

Understanding early help

Early help aims for agencies to work together to provide support as soon as problems emerge. This is because tackling a problem early can stop things getting worse. Education (schools, nurseries), housing, and health services (your GP, a health visitor) are all examples of agencies.

Early help can be given to a family with a child up to age 18. So, the child may be a baby, toddler, at primary school or a teenager.

The process starts with an early help assessment. This is sometimes suggested by someone working with a family. Or a family member requests it.

Early help services are aimed at supporting children and families without a social worker. Social workers are not involved in early help assessments or providing early help services. But sometimes social workers ask early help services to provide assistance to children and families they are working with.

I had a very difficult childhood. Now I sometimes struggle with different problems and can get upset with my family. What help can I ask for so that my children are not affected?

It is a very good idea to ask for help to overcome difficulties that you are facing which are impacting on your family. And the way you behave at home. If you are getting upset with your family then this may well be causing problems in your relationship with your partner. And with your children. You may benefit from help to reduce your stress. You may need support to develop healthier relationships.

Early help practitioners can work with you and your child to work out what support and services can be put in place to help. This could include help you to strengthen your parenting. And to reduce stresses at home.

You can suggest they co-ordinate an early help assessment of your family’s situation. This would aim to work out what extra support you need. A lead practitioner will do the assessment. This could be your GP, or your child’s teacher or health visitor for example. They should work with your family to identify local services to provide the right help.

If you feel it would be helpful for any other practitioners involved with your family to meet together and make a plan, you could suggest a Team Around the Family meeting. This is a voluntary process.

See our Early help page for information about getting early help and what an early help assessment involves.

A range of services can be offered as part of Early Help. But if the early help assessment suggests:

  • Your child and family may need extra help and support from children’s services, or
  • There is a concern that you have been (or will become) domestically abused

then a referral may be made to children’s services. See our Child in need page for more information.

What kind of local services and help may be useful to help? Where can I find out about these?

You can find some information about different services that can support families on or Useful links page. And information about many more specialist domestic abuse organisations and services at Domestic abuse: getting further help.

There should be some local services that you can access directly yourself. Or with support of the lead practitioner for your family. Some organisations may have a specialist father’s worker or parenting programme to help you think about your parenting and work on it.

It is very important that you find out more about what domestic abuse is and how it affects children. There are specialist services and courses for men to address domestic abuse. There are courses to help met change violent behaviour. There are links to perpetrators’ services: Respect and Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in the Domestic abuse: getting further help section.

2. Male victims of domestic abuse

I am a father who was a victim of domestic abuse from my child’s mother. The social worker does not seem to take the abuse seriously. What can I do about this?

Men as well as women can be victims of domestic abuse and this happens in same sex relationships too. Men and women have the same rights to protection and to be safe. Men’s experiences of domestic abuse may differ in some ways to women’s experiences. They may also face challenges in disclosing the abuse and accessing help. Children can be harmed by witnessing domestic abuse at home regardless of whether it is carried out by their mother or their father.

Sometimes, fathers who have experienced domestic abuse may not feel supported or believed by their child’s social worker or other professionals working with the family. It is worth trying to discuss this with the social worker and/or their manager and explaining more about what your concerns are.

It can be a good idea to get in touch with a specialist domestic abuse service which works with male victims or suggesting that the social worker contacts them to find out more about good practice in working with male victims.

You may be able to access specialist advice and support from the Men’s Advice Line which is a dedicated helpline run by the charity Respect or from the men’s domestic abuse charity Mankind Initiative.

If you are still very unhappy about how children’s services are responding to both you and your concerns, you could consider making a complaint. See our Complaints page for information about how to go about this and what is involved.

You may also want to access private law advice both about protecting yourself from domestic abuse and about applications in relation to seeing or caring for your child. You can find information about how to access legal advice here.

My child still lives with their mother and I am worried for them. How can I get children’s services to investigate my concerns?

It can be very frustrating if you think your child is at risk of harm but that others do not accept this. If you are accessing support as a victim of domestic abuse you can also discuss your concerns with the person or team working with you. They may be able to help you explain your concerns for your child to children’s services.

If you are unhappy with how children’s services have responded to your concerns or you disagree with an assessment a social worker has completed you can:

  • Put your concerns in writing, explaining clearly what you are unhappy with and why
  • Explain to children’s services what you think should be happening
  • Think about whether you want to make a complaint. See our Complaints page for information about how to go about this and what is involved.

As a father, you can think about legal options. You may want to look into making a court application to see your child. Or so you can apply for your child to live with you if you think that is in their best interests. Our A-Z entry for child arrangements order is a good place to start. And then you may find our DIY child arrangements order advice sheet helpful. Though this is aimed at wider family and friends who may want to raise a child, it contains information about child arrangements orders and advice about the court process. You may find this helpful.

For legal advice about these private law matters you can contact Child law advice. Or contact a solicitor.

I didn’t report my ex-partner’s abuse to me because I thought no-one would believe me. Now social workers are concerned about her care of our child. I am worried that if I tell them about the domestic abuse now this will make matters worse. What can I do?

Many victims feel unable to report domestic abuse at the time that it is happening and often do not know how to access support. Social workers should have an understanding of how domestic abuse affects men as well as women. They will need to consider how this impacts on your child. It is important that you work with your child’s social worker to help them understand what their experience has been and what help or support they may need now.

It is understandable that you do not want to make the situation worse. However, where there has been domestic abuse, whether by the child’s mother or father, this will need to be addressed as part of the social worker’s assessment of the child’s situation and to keep them safe. You may find it helpful to access support from a specialist domestic abuse organisation such as Men’s Advice Line.

3. Child in need

Sometimes children’s services are worried about domestic abuse in a family but do not think the child is suffering significant harm. And do not think the child is likely to suffer harm. In that situation the social worker may agree for extra help and support for your child and family to be provided as part of a child in need plan. The social worker should do a child in need assessment to find out if your child is ‘in need’ or not. And to find out what extra support and services may be helpful to your family. The children’s services departments will have their own measures for deciding which children in the local area are ‘in need’ enough to get services.

Child in need assessments are voluntary. This means you do not have to agree to have an assessment. And if an assessment is carried out, a parent or carer can decide not to accept any services offered.  But it is important to remember that:

  • A child in need assessment aims to find out what extra help and services your child and families may need
  • Accepting help and services following the assessment may prevent needs and difficulties escalating.

The questions below are about situations where a child in need plan can be a good way for children’s services to provide support.

You can also read more about child in need assessments and child in need plans on our Child in need page.

My partner and I want to stay together and work out our problems. How can we remain together and satisfy children’s services that our child is not at risk from domestic abuse?

Sometimes couples do want to remain in a relationship although there have been concerns about domestic abuse. It is really important that you:

  • Understand what the concerns are
  • Acknowledge that they exist
  • Are willing to work hard to make sure that your child is not exposed to further domestic abuse.

There may be different services you and your partner will be asked to engage with. You can ask for these yourselves. The right service will depend on the assessment of your child’s needs and the level of risk to your child it has identified.

In some cases, each parent will be asked to engage with a specialist domestic abuse service. For you, this may mean taking part in a specialist domestic abuse perpetrator’s programme run by a Respect accredited organisation. This programme can help you to understand how your abusive behaviour affects your child. And will aim to help you work out how to change this and develop other ways of behaving. Your partner should be offered support from a Respect women’s service if you are doing this course.

If you have other support needs such as drug or alcohol misuse or mental health needs you may be offered or should request support with them. If you need information and advice about alcohol or drug misuse or about adult mental ill-health take a look at the Why? section of our website.

Your partner may be encouraged to access to support and information from a specialist domestic abuse service such as Women’s Aid or Refuge to help her know her options and make informed choices. See Domestic abuse: getting further help for contact details.

Some local authorities offer specialist family group conferences to families where there has been domestic abuse where:

  • This is assessed to be safe for the child and adult victims
  • The adult victim is in agreement with the family group conference happening.

This is a family-led planning meeting. It brings family and others important to a child together to make a plan to keep the child safe and supported. You can read more about family group conferences on our Family group conference: advice for families page.  This includes short films and helpful infographics to explain the family group conference process.

If you remain at home even though there has been domestic abuse the situation is likely to be monitored very carefully under the child’s plan. This will be the case whether that is a child in need or a child protection plan. The social worker will want to make sure that your child and your partner are safe in this situation. You will need to show that you have made changes to your violent behaviour and can parent your child safely.

My partner and I have had relationship difficulties which the social worker calls domestic abuse. We want to have relationship counselling to help us. Our child’s social worker is against this idea. Why?

Many couples facing difficulties in their relationship benefit from counselling support. Anger management courses can help some people too. If there is tension or stress within your family which you are not managing well you may benefit from a healthy relationships programme or mediation which may help you to build relationships, resolve difficulties and prevent conflict.

However, these types of services are usually not suitable where there is domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse practitioners do not usually support counselling or mediation between perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse. This is because counselling and mediation cannot adequately address:

  • Power and control dynamics
  • Risks and
  • Safety issues.

This means these services can be used by perpetrators to manipulate their victims. Or to undermine their victim.

If your child’s social worker and other practitioners think your situation involves domestic abuse but and you and/or your partner don’t see it that way you should:

  • Let them know your views
  • Listen to their concerns
  • Think carefully about what it is you are being asked to do, and
  • Consider how it may help to protect your child from being affected by the domestic abuse.

You and your partner may be asked to agree to work with a specialist domestic abuse service. For you, this may mean being referred to take part in a specialist domestic abuse perpetrator’s programme run by a Respect accredited organisation. The level of risk you pose and your suitability for the course will be assessed as a first step.

The programme can help you to understand how your abusive behaviour affects your child. If you do attend a regular group work programme for at least 6 months, the aim will be to help you to change any violent behaviour, to be responsible for your actions and to teach you about respectful relationships and develop your parenting skills.

Your partner should be offered support at the same time. The safety of your partner and your child will be the priority. This could be from Respect women’s service if you are doing a Respect perpetrator programme.

Police were called to our family home by a neighbour. I wasn’t arrested and the police ended their involvement. Why are children’s services still involved?

The police investigate whether a crime has been committed. Where there is evidence of a crime they ask the Crown Prosecution Service to look at the evidence and decide whether they can bring a case to the criminal courts. Police work with the criminal burden of proof which is ‘beyond reasonable doubt. If the criminal court looks at an allegation that someone has committed a crime, it looks at whether the evidence available shows ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that the person is guilty.

Children’s services have a responsibility to offer support and extra help to vulnerable children. If they suspect a child has suffered significant harm or is likely to, they have a duty to investigate. This means they must look into the situation.

Children’s services work with the civil burden of proof. This is called the balance of probabilities. That simply means thinking ‘what is more likely than not to have happened’. That is the same standard of proof that is used in the Family Court.

The police inform children’s services when they respond to a domestic abuse incident where a child is present or a victim is pregnant. This is so social workers can assess how best to make sure the child is safe and well-cared for. This could be through a referral for:

child protection investigation or conference process for children who have or may be significantly harmed.

For more easy to follow information and advice about each of those different types of involvement see our Early help, our Child in need, and our Child protection advice pages.

Social workers often remain involved after police involvement has ended to make sure that there is a suitable plan in place for the child.

It is a good idea for you to you work with children’s services to understand their concerns. And to get the right help for yourself to address these concern. Children’s services should work to see what support services your partner and child need may need. Then children’s services’ involvement may lessen or come to an end if they are satisfied that your child’s needs are being met and they are protected from harm.

You might find the information on our Children’s services helpful and our guide to Working with a social worker.

I am a good father who loves his child. How can I make sure that the social worker takes account of this now they are involved because of domestic abuse?

Sometimes professionals seem to view fathers only in relation to the risk they may pose to their child. They don’t always recognise and value what they may be doing to support, help and care for their child. Fathers sometimes describe how professionals focus on them as potential perpetrators rather than as parents too.

Where a family is referred to children’s services because of a domestic abuse incident the assessment must look at the incident. This is to make sure the child is safe. But the assessment should take into account the situation in which the child is living. It should look at family strengths and protective factors as well as any difficulties or risk the child or their parents may face. The incident should be considered within that context as well as any relevant history. You might hear this sometimes called a holistic approach.

There are some tips here within our young fathers advice hub which explain what you can do if you are seen only as a possible risk to your baby rather than as a support to them. These may be helpful for any father. Not just a younger father.

Where there is domestic abuse you may be asked to agree to attend a specialist course known as a perpetrators programme. You may benefit from learning more about the impact of domestic abuse on children’s development and how to strengthen your parenting. It is always worth finding out what is on offer in your area.

You can find some information about different services that can support families on or Useful links page. And information about many more specialist domestic abuse organisations and services at Domestic abuse: getting further help.

I am not the child’s father but we have a very close relationship. The child’s social worker will not talk to me even though it is my behaviour that they are worried about. What are my rights?

You are in a parenting role with your partner’s child but will not have parental responsibility for them. Unless you obtained this through a court order. Children’s services should work in partnership with birth fathers (even if they do not have parental responsibility). They can also work with men who are in a parenting role including where their behaviour is the cause for concern. But they are not required to do so. You don’t have rights as such.

How children’s services work with or include you may be influenced by:

  • Your relationship and involvement with the child
  • What support you offer them
  • Your ability to accept support to change your behaviour and
  • Their assessment of the risk your behaviour poses to the child.

The social worker will work with your partner, who has parental responsibility.  The social worker will want to make sure your partner is safe from domestic abuse and is able to keep the children safe from domestic abuse and meet their needs.

As you have a close relationship with the child it is important that you do not put them at risk through your behaviour. It is important that you don’t jeopardise their mother’s ability to care for them safely.

4. Contact arrangements for children

I am separated from my child’s mother. There was domestic abuse in the past. She is willing to let me see our child, but children’s services have told her not to. I want to maintain a relationship with my child. How do I go about this?

When children’s services are aware that a child lived with domestic abuse and were affected by this, they may well look to the child’s mother to make sure that this does not happen again. This may be because there are concerns that the child may be harmed by witnessing their mother being further abused. Or by being directly harmed themselves. Often mothers are advised to refuse contact or face the possibility that children’s services will seek a court order to remove the child from home.

If children’s services have given your child’s mother this advice then she will be expected to follow it if she does not want to jeopardise her care of your child.

You should contact children’s services and ask that they put into writing:

  • Their recommendation that you should have no contact with the children
  • The reasons why they are making that recommendation
  • Your wish to stay involved with the children and to be a good father
  • What you can do to address their concerns
  • What you can do so the children can have safe contact with you again.

Depending on the seriousness of the concerns about the domestic abuse you can ask for information about:

  • Support to help you change violent or other abusive behaviour
  • How to better develop your parenting skills
  • How your children can continue their relationship with you safely
  • Options for contact including – how this can be supervised or support; how handovers can be safe; other forms of contact that could safely occur if face to face contact is not happening
  • Carrying out a risk assessment.

It is important to understand that using domestic abuse is poor parenting and to be aware of how it impacts on children.

For legal advice about these private law matters you can contact Child law advice. Or contact a solicitor.

5. Child protection and domestic abuse

I am a father who was a victim of domestic abuse from my child’s mother. The social worker does not seem to take the abuse seriously. What can I do about this?

Your child’s social worker may be worried about other aspects of your behaviour towards your partner and your child. Domestic abuse covers a wide range of actions not just physical abuse. These can include sexual abuse, emotional abuse, isolation, coercion, threats, intimidation, financial control, forced marriage and honour-based abuse.

Research shows that children can suffer long-term harm from living in a household where domestic abuse is taking place. The legal definition of significant harm specifically includes seeing or hearing abuse (see section 31(9) of the Children Act 1989).Domestic abuse is a serious failure in parenting. It can be particularly harmful to children because it often directed at their main carer, their mother.

It is important to check with the social worker these things:

  • What the concerns are
  • Whether the social worker is involved because your child may need extra support or services (they may be a child in need), or
  • Whether the social worker is involved because children’s services suspect your child is suffering significant harm. Or is likely to suffer significant ham.

If it is that children’s services are concerned about significant harm to your child then they must make child protection enquiries. Or immediate action to protect your child.

You may find it helpful to look at our Children’s services page which includes a picture showing all the different ways children’s services may become involved with children and families. This includes child in need and child protection involvement.

You may also want to look at our main Child in need page and our Child protection page for more advice.

Whatever way children’s services are involved you should be involved in any assessment work. And in any child in need plan or child protection plan for your child. But this involvement must be in a way that is safe for your partner and your child.

It is important for you to understand how the social worker thinks your child is being affected and what you can do to overcome those concerns and change your behaviour. The assessment should also record any examples of positive aspects of your parenting.

My child’s social worker and other professionals say that my behaviour towards my wife and child is intimidating and controlling. They call this behaviour coercive control. What can I do about this?

Controlling behaviour can take different forms. It may involve one person telling another how to dress, or what to say. It may include isolating them from sources of support. Coercive behaviour is where abusive acts, such as threats, form a pattern of abuse which is used to punish or frighten another person.

Common examples of controlling and coercive behaviours include:

  • Isolating someone from family and friends who could support them
  • Monitoring their time
  • Controlling where someone goes, who they spend time with and what they wear
  • Constant criticism
  • Controlling money
  • Depriving someone of their basic needs, such as food and sleep and
  • Threatening or intimidating someone.

It is not always easy to identify coercive behaviour. They can be subtle and build up over time.

It is a criminal offence to use coercive control. An abuser can be punished with up to 5 years imprisonment.

It is really important that you listen to what the social worker and other practitioners are saying they are worried about. Try to really think carefully about what they are describing to you. And consider carefully what they have to say about what needs to happen and change.

You may find it difficult talking with social workers and others about coercive control. You may find it hard to listen to what they are saying. This is because what they say may well be challenging and you may disagree with them. Always try and remain calm. If you need to take a break from the conversation or meeting say so. Try not to brush off (minimise) the concerns. You may find our top tips for Working with a social worker helpful.

It is important that you try to work respectfully with practitioners. And they should work respectfully with you. You should:

  • Discuss your understanding of the situation and ask any questions you have. This is important
  • Make sure that you know what changes you are being asked to make and why. Check that these have been really clearly set out in writing for you. Are you being asked to change your behaviour or move out of the home? Are you being asked to not see your child or only see them under supervisions?
  • Be involved in decisions and meetings about your child. But because of the concern about coercive control arrangements will be made to keep your partner and child safe. This could be a split meeting. This is where you and your partner are not present at the same. This makes it safe for each of you to participate. It helps to prevent any risk or intimidation.
  • Be given clear information about what plan is being considered/put in place for your child. Is it a child in need plan. Or a child protection plan?

I have never been violent to my current partner but my past history is being used against me by my child’s social worker. What can I do about this?

It can be very difficult to be reminded of your past especially where you feel that your relationship and your situation are now very different.

When someone has been domestically violent in a previous relationship this can be a strong indicator that they may behave that way again. Especially if they have not undertaken any work to address their abuse.

Your history may be seen as a risk factor. If it is, then it will need to be fully considered as part of any assessment or planning for your child’s needs. But the assessment and plan should take account of what is different now. It should look at what has been achieved. And whether any positive progress is likely to be sustained.

How children’s services respond will depend on the precise situation. It will depend on whether assessment work shows your child has suffered significant harm. OR is likely to in the future. And what it is thought needs to be put in place to support and/or protect your child.  Depending on these things a child in need or a child protection plan may be put in place.

You can read more about these on our Child in need page and our Child protection page.

It is really important that you work with your child’s social worker and other practitioners involved to understand, address and try to overcome their concerns for your child’s safety and welfare.

If children’s services have a high level of concern they may decide to begin a pre-proceedings process. This is the process where children’s services consider whether to start care proceedings. If children’s services think the situation is urgent or your child is unsafe, they may begin court proceedings. See our Care (and related) proceedings page for more information.

Read on to our Pre-proceedings and care proceedings section to find out more.

Why am I being excluded from my child’s child protection conference? Is this right?

A child protection conference is a formal meeting between a child’s family and children’s services. A conference may be arranged when children’s services are concerned that a child may be suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. The purpose is to decide whether your needs to have a child protection plan. This is a plan which sets out how to keep a child safe. See our child protection conference A-Z entry for further information.

Where there is a history of domestic abuse you might be invited to attend a split conference. This is where you and your partner are not present at the same. This makes it safe for each of you to participate. It helps to prevent any risk or intimidation.

You may not be allowed to attend a child protection conference if:

  • There is a court injunction against you which states that you should not be near your child’s mother
  • You are assessed to pose a risk of harm to your child, their mother or anyone else at the conference. This can include intimidation.

If you are not allowed to attend your child’s social worker and the conference Chair should make sure you are consulted. And kept information about what is happening. This could be through a separate meeting with you. This might be before the main conference or afterwards.

My child is on a child protection plan because of concerns about her mother’s parenting. I want to put myself forward to care for my child but am worried that past incidents where I reacted to my ex-partner’s abuse will go against me and I will end up losing contact. What can I do in this situation?

Children’s services should already be involving you safely in the planning for your child. If you are not being properly involved you can read our tips for fathers. These are aimed at young fathers but are useful for all fathers and father figures in this situation.

Your child’s social worker should be working with you to considerhttps://www.frg.org.uk/ypa/need-help-or-advice/young-fathers#risk-versus-resource what you can offer in terms of care and support for your child.

Your ex-partner may be asked to undertake a programme to address her behaviour and parenting if she has been violent. If you been abusive too, then you will need to understand any changes you need to make to protect yourself or to behave differently. Domestic abuse will have affected your child. Children’s services will want to make sure that your child is protected from experiencing or witnessing further abuse.

You can:

  1. Ask the social worker to assess you as a potential carer for your child.
  2. See if the social worker thinks a family group conference should be held.
  3. The social worker may agree that safe plans need to be made about who should care for your child and that a family group conference is a good way to do this. A family group conference is a family-led planning meeting. It brings family and others important to a child together to make a plan to keep the child safe and supported. You can read more about family group conferences on our Family group conferences: advice for families This includes short films and helpful infographics to explain the family group conference process.
  4. Think about asking the Family Court to decide who should be your child’s main carer and who your child should see and spend time with. This involves applying for a child arrangements order. This is an order which can say who a child lives with. Or who a child should see or spend time with and in what way. The court will take into account any evidence of domestic abuse and risk assessments when deciding if they should make a Child Arrangements Order and if so to whom. Children’s services’ will be asked to make a recommendation in relation to this.

For legal advice about these private law matters you can contact Child law advice. Or contact a solicitor.

You can also find a range of useful services including legal services, domestic abuse organisations and specialist fathers projects on our Domestic abuse: getting further help section.

What are my rights if my child’s social worker says that I cannot return home or spend time with my child alone?

Sometimes, children’s services may assess that a child has suffered significant harm because of domestic abuse. Or they may assess that the child is likely to suffer harm.  In this is the situation, children’s services may decide that that it not safe for your child to live with you or see you on their own.

They may ask you, as part of a child protection plan, to agree to live elsewhere and to comply with supervised contact or no contact at all. They may assess that your partner can keep your child safe if you both keep to these arrangements.

You can contact children’s services and ask that they put into writing:

  • Their recommendation that you should move out
  • Their recommendation that you should have no contact with the children
  • The reasons why they are making that recommendation
  • What will happen if you do not agree to these things
  • Your wish to stay involved with the children
  • What they say you can do to address their concerns.

If you have not previously accessed any specialist services to support you to address your behaviours, such as a perpetrators’ programme, you could do so now. A perpetrators’ programme usually involves a group work programme which men attend each week for at least 6 months. The programmes are designed to help men learn how to be less violent, and to take responsibility for their actions. They learn about respectful relationships, being a better parent and communicating without abuse. All Respect accredited programmes will have linked partner support services.

Even if this does not change the situation in the short-term it may benefit both you and your child in the future.

Children’s services may say that if you do not agree to this or do not keep these terms they will make an application to court to remove your child. In this situation it is very important to urgently find a solicitor:

  • To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website.  Look for someone who is a child law specialist. Or who has ‘Children Law Accreditation’. For information about finding a solicitor and working with them, please see our top tips guide ‘Working with a solicitor’.
  • You may want to post a question on our Parents Forum to receive advice from one our expert advisers, or for further advice or complex situations you may want to
  • Contact us – call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays).

And see our Care (and related) proceedings for more information.

6. Expectant fathers and domestic abuse

My partner is pregnant. A social worker is doing a pre-birth assessment because my partner told her GP about an incident at home. Will our baby will be taken away?

Children’s services departments sometimes receive information from someone worried about the safety of an unborn baby. This information is called a referral. Anyone can make a referral if they are worried about a child or unborn baby.  So, a referral may come from a member of the public or a family member. It can come from someone involved with the family or child. This could be a teacher, health visitor, the police or a GP for example.

When they receive a referral, children’s services should decide certain things within one working day (see Working Together to Safeguard Children at page 30, paragraph 71). These things are:

  • Whether to start an assessment.
  • And if so, what type. This could be a:

If children’s services have received a referral from your partner’s GP, then this would lead to a social worker from children’s services getting in touch.  It is not unusual for the social worker to want to start an assessment. This is called a pre-birth assessment.

A pre-birth assessment is carried out in much the same way as any other social work assessment except that it is completed before your baby is born. This assessment will aim to find out whether your family need/will need additional support. And whether your baby will be safe when they are born. The social worker will speak to your partners midwife and any other relevant health staff when doing their assessment of your family situation.

There can be different outcomes to a pre-birth assessment. The outcome will depend on whether your unborn baby is assessed to require additional help as a child in need. Or if there are concerns that your baby will be at risk of harm once born.

If, after the assessment, the social worker is worried your baby may be likely to suffer significant harm, after the birth, an initial child protection conference may be held while your partner is still pregnant.

But the social work may decide to arrange a child in need meeting instead if they think:

  • Your baby will not be at risk
  • Your family and your baby will need some extra help and support from different practitioners and services.

It is very important that you, as the expectant father:

  • Work with the social worker to find out what the concerns are and how these concerns may affect your child
  • Respond to those concerns
  • Find out what you and your partner can do (or what help you can be offered) to help keep your baby safe within your family.

As soon as possible you and your partners should think about whether there is anyone else in the baby’s family who is suitable to look after your baby if you cannot. You can ask for a family group conference. This is a family-led planning meeting. It brings family and others who will be important in your baby’s life to make a plan to keep them safe and supported once born. You can read more about family group conferences on our Family group conferences: advice for families page.  This includes short films and helpful infographics to explain the family group conference process.

Pre-proceedings

If the concerns about your unborn baby are so great that children’s services think your baby may not be safe when born, they may begin a pre-proceedings process. Pre proceedings is the process where children’s services consider whether to start care proceedings. If they decide to do this, children’s services must send you a letter before proceedings.

This letter should include:

  • Information about what children’s services are worried about
  • Changes they would like the parent or carer to make
  • Information about any assessments or courses children’s services think parents should be involved in
  • Any support children’s services can put in place
  • An invitation to a ‘pre-proceedings meeting’ to discuss those concerns.

See our Pre-proceedings page for more information.

Court proceedings

If children’s services think the situation is urgent or your child is unsafe, they may begin court proceedings. See our Care (and related) proceedings page for more information.

Important: If either a pre-proceedings process or care proceedings are going to begin it is very important to urgently find a solicitor:

  • You may want to post a question on our Parents Forum to receive advice from one our expert advisers, or for further advice or complex situations you may want to
  • Contact us – call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays).

7. Pre-proceedings and care proceedings

The process where children’s services consider whether to start care proceedings. They may tell you that under these circumstances, children’s services may start a pre-proceedings process. This is the process where children’s services consider whether to start care proceedings. If they decide to do this, children’s services must send you a letter before proceedings.

This letter should include:

  • Information about what children’s services are worried about
  • Changes they would like the parent or carer to make
  • Information about any assessments or courses children’s services think parents should be involved in
  • Any support children’s services can put in place
  • An invitation to a ‘pre-proceedings meeting’ to discuss those concerns.

See our Pre-proceedings page for more information.

If children’s services think the situation is urgent or your child is unsafe, they may begin court proceedings. See our Care (and related) proceedings page for more information.

Important: If either a pre-proceedings process or care proceedings are going to begin it is very important to urgently find a solicitor:

  • You may want to post a question on our Parents Forum to receive advice from one our expert advisers, or for further advice or complex situations you may want to

Contact us – call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays).

What if children’s services say that they will go to court to remove our child if my partner and I stay together?

Where social workers assess that a child has suffered significant harm. Or they are likely to suffer significant harm due to domestic abuse then it may not be possible for a couple both to remain together and to continue to care for their child. You may be asked to:

  • End your relationship
  • Leave the family home
  • Have no further unsupervised contact with your child.

If you disagree with this you would need to, ask the social worker to be clear with you about what will happen if you do not do what is being asked. They may tell you that under these circumstances, children’s services may start a pre-proceedings process. This is the process where children’s services consider whether to start care proceedings. If they decide to do this, children’s services must send you a letter before proceedings.

This letter should include:

  • Information about what children’s services are worried about
  • Changes they would like the parent or carer to make
  • Information about any assessments or courses children’s services think parents should be involved in
  • Any support children’s services can put in place
  • An invitation to a ‘pre-proceedings meeting’ to discuss those concerns.

See our Pre-proceedings page for more information.

During Pre-proceedings children’s services should see if support is available for your child and family from within your wider family and friends network.  So, you can involve your family and friends in helping to work out how they can help you to care for your child and keep them safe.

A good way to do this is with a family group conference. This is a family-led planning meeting. It brings family and others important to a child together to make a plan to keep the child safe and supported. You can read more about family group conferences on our Family group conferences: advice for families page.  This includes short films and helpful infographics to explain the family group conference process.

Care proceedings

If children’s services think the situation is urgent or your child’s situation is not improving and they are unsafe, they may begin court proceedings. If they decide to do this they should send you a letter of issue telling you that is their plan.  When children’s services apply to the Family Court to start care proceedings they are asking the court to:

See our Care (and related) proceedings page for more information. And if you are a young father you may find the information on our Young parents advice hub on the care proceedings page helpful.

8. Domestic abuse and fathers rights to information

My child lives with their mother and her new partner; he was violent to her so now children’s services are involved. What are my rights to information about the situation?

As a father you have a right to information about your child. It is reasonable for you to have concerns about the safety of your child if there has been domestic abuse at home from their mother’s current partner. Your child’s social worker may share information with you if they are worried that your child may be at risk. Or if they consider that sharing information with you will reduce this risk.

But social worker should only share information with you that is relevant and necessary. They do not have to share all the information they hold with you. They should not share information that does not relate to the concerns, or information that is from a long time ago.

If you think that you are not being told all you need to know in order to help keep your child safe. Or that you are not being properly involved in the assessment and plans for your child then you can contact the social worker, in writing or by email, to try to resolve this.

You should explain:

  • Your relationship and your involvement in your child’s life
  • Your commitment to working with Children’s Services to help your child
  • How you can help care for and support your child
  • What information you think you need to know in order to best help your child.

If you still feel that you are not being fully informed and included, you could consider making a complaint. See our Complaints page for more information and advice about this.

My ex-partner is still angry with me, because I had an affair, and I’m worried that she has told children’s services that I was domestically violent. Can I see the information?

If children’s services carried out or are carrying out an assessment of your child’s needs then they should contact you to discuss this and to include you in the process. You can contact the local children’s services department in the area where your child lives to check if they are involved with your child and why and to make sure that you are involved in the assessment. You should receive a copy of your child’s assessment.

Children’s services should work with you but must also ensure that they do not put your ex-partner or your child at any additional risk.

If you choose to you can formally write to children’s services to ask them for a copy of any information they hold about you or your child. There are certain situations where children’s services may decide not to share information. For example, where this could cause serious harm to somebody. This is explained in more detail our advice sheet Accessing records held by children’s services: non-personal information.

I don’t want my family to know that children’s services are involved because of domestic abuse. What can I do about this?

Wider family members do not have a specific right to information about you or your child. If you have any concerns about information being shared you should discuss this with your child’s social worker. Try to do this as soon as possible and to reach an agreement. Sharing information within families where there is domestic abuse can increase safety for a child and their mother. But it may not be appropriate in all situations.

It can be a good idea to involve wider family. This is because they may be able to offer you and /or your partner help to care for your child safely. They may also be able to care for your child if you or your child’s mother cannot.

A good way to do this is with a family group conference. This is a family-led planning meeting. It brings family and others important to a child together to make a plan to keep the child safe and supported. You can read more about family group conferences on our Family group conferences: advice for families page.  This includes short films and helpful infographics to explain the family group conference process.

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