How do I protect my children from domestic abuse?


The impact of domestic abuse on children is a widely discussed topic, and unfortunately one for which there is no clear remedy or prevention. Research shows that even very young children who may not be able to speak or express themselves can be affected by domestic abuse in the home.

Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse can include physical harm, verbal insults, and control of household matters such as money. If you have children living at home, then it is likely that they may witness these incidents, or at the very least, be aware of them.

Children’s reactions vary depending on their experiences and personalities so it is not always easy to deal with or detect the impact.

Children who see or experience domestic abuse might experience any of the following:
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Complain of physical symptoms, ie tummy ache
  • Temper tantrums
  • Aggression
  • Internalise and withdraw from other people
  • Older children may consider use of drugs or alcohol

If you are suffering domestic abuse yourself, your main priority will often be - how do I protect my children from domestic abuse?

Do I need to report domestic violence to the police?

It is important that you tell the police, so they can investigate and bring about criminal proceedings.

However, if you don’t feel able to do that, or if you are worried about the children, you and they can speak confidentially to your GP.

You can also contact a confidential organisation for advice and support on what to do next. You can search for your nearest local domestic abuse organisations here:

Do I need legal help?

A solicitor can advise you on all the legal aspects of your situation, including Emergency Injunctions, such as a Non-Molestation Order or an Occupation Order.

You can apply for a Non-Molestation Order which stops the person from doing various things, such as contacting you or coming to your home or work.

You can also apply for an Occupation Order, which prevents the other person returning to your home, often for a specific time. This order is enforceable by the Police and if the other person does not follow it then they are committing a criminal offence and will be punished accordingly.

A solicitor can advise you on orders in relation to the children. Some of which can be obtained on an urgent basis if there is a significant risk of harm to the children:
  • An Interim Residence Order will state who the children stay with, such as a parent or carer
  • A Prohibited Steps Order to prevent a parent or someone with parental responsibility from removing a child

It is important that you come and talk through your options with a solicitor so that you can decide what to do next to protect yourself and your children.

Do I have to pay for legal help?

You may be able to access legal aid funding from the Legal Aid Agency in situations where domestic abuse has occurred or is occurring.

However, there is certain criteria you need to be satisfy, for example you need to show there has been domestic abuse. Also, the funding is still means tested, and is therefore based on your household income and capital.

If you wish to apply for Legal Aid then please speak to a specialised Family Law solicitor, who can answer all your questions.

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