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violent husband refuses to return kids after visit... please help.

(29 Posts)
mrbojangles Wed 16-Sep-09 21:06:06

I have posted this in the wrong area and have been directed here.. I really hope someone can help to put me in the right direction.
I'll try to be brief but will no doubt fail miserably..
My sister has recently separated (6 weeks) from her violent husband. Things have been very difficult, his family have been both aggresive and intimidating to my sister and parents. She has contacted the police and a injunction is in process, though not yet in action.
He has seen the children and taken them to the park,but that has been the extent of contact.
Yesterday he said he would like to take them out and she agreed but now he is refusing to give them back. They are 2yr and 3yr. She tried to talk him round and gave him a cut off time. When the time was up she called the police. They are saying that as it was her he hit (even though she was pregnant) he is no threat to the children so there is nothing they can do and have referred her to citizens advise and said she should get a solictor.

I am much older than my sister and she looks up to me and I just have no knowledge of this in law, I'm really worried about her and want to guide in the right direction.... If anyone can point me in the right direction I would really appreciate it. Thankyou.

Georgimama Wed 16-Sep-09 21:10:26

She needs to see a solicitor pronto - like tomorrow morning. That's all I can offer. I am not in family law but I know a family solicitor could be in court with an application for an order compelling he return them within a matter of hours.

Never mind that he isn't a physical threat to them (which is bollocks, frankly) children that young should not be away from their primary carer. I hate to say this, but why on earth did she let him take them off unsupervised? Why hasn't she been to a solicitor already?

edam Wed 16-Sep-09 21:19:46

mrbo, I agree with Georgi, your sister needs a lawyer who specialises in family law PDQ. Perhaps you could do some research online tonight and call them first thing?

Your poor sister must be so worried.

CrackWhoretoPaulDacre Wed 16-Sep-09 21:22:21

If she's in touch with Womens Aid, they can point her at a good local solicitor who understands the issues. If she's not talking to them - give her the number! Find the local affiliate at

Hope it works out for her.

mrbojangles Wed 16-Sep-09 21:22:52

I know, I felt the same, but who knows what drives you when your in that situation.I know she wants to do the right thing and I suspect that he convinced her it was fine like he convinced her to stay after he beat her. It breaks my heart.

Thankyou for your advise, I'll make a appointment and take her in the morning.

Georgimama Wed 16-Sep-09 21:24:10

Try this - the Law Society website is the best way to find a solicitor who is accredited in whatever area of law you need.

edam Wed 16-Sep-09 22:17:48

Good luck, MrBo, hope your sister gets her children back PDQ.

mumoverseas Thu 17-Sep-09 06:25:51

agree with georgimama and edam. She needs an urgent appointment with a family lawyer who could make an ex-parte (without notice) application to the court for a Residence Order and if granted by the Judge this would then be served upon him and he would have to return the children immediately. If he failed to do so then the police would become involved. Without a residence order, there is very little they can do but with it they will assist. It is not uncommon for the police to attend his residence with your sister and her lawyer to serve the order.

Please make sure she sees someone immediately today.

racmac Thu 17-Sep-09 06:41:53

Please Please Please ring around all the local legal aid Solicitors first thing and get an emergency appointment for today.

I am very surprised the police failed to do anything and i would suggest going back to the Domestic Violence unit and going as high as you can rank wise.

Whereabouts is your sister?

mumoverseas Thu 17-Sep-09 09:44:03

racmac, frustrating though it is, the police just simply don't have the power to do anything. As they are married, the husband and wife both have parental responsibility and without the OPs sister having a residence order, the police are powerless. Sadly, I very much doubt the DVU will be able to do anything as there is no suggestion that the children are at risk.

edam Thu 17-Sep-09 10:34:39

I do think there is something wrong with the understanding of domestic violence, especially amongst the police/courts/social services, when a violent man who assaults his wife is not seen as a threat to his children.

Domestic violence clearly makes you an unfit parent IMO. And in fact SS often say domestic violence is a form of child abuse. So why on earth do the courts/police/SS then try to distinguish between violence against one member of the family and others? If the father attacked a child, would the divorce courts say, sorry, he's not done anything to you and turn an applicant down? I don't think so...

edam Thu 17-Sep-09 10:36:57

What I mean is, the children clearly are at risk from a violent man, even if his violence has been directed at the mother in the past. What guarantee is there that a violent person, who is by definition unreasonable and unable to control themselves, will not attack a child? And what about the impact on the children from witnessing violence? If that is classed as child abuse, surely the abuser is not a fit person to have sole charge of the children?

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Thu 17-Sep-09 10:43:02

edam SS do say that domestic violence is a form of child abuse. The impact of this on children is devestating, and can sometime spill over physically to the children in certain cases (not saying in this case) so it is always treated seriously. I have done a reasonable amount of child protection training recently under the new Safeguarding Children intiatives.

I would say this.

You must report the fact that he has the children to social services. You must state that he has been violent to his ex-partner while she is pregnant. this is key, as violence is likely to increase when a woman is pregnant, and this also means it may be more likely to increase towards, or in front of children. While the police to do not have the power to do anything, at this stage, if there is a risk of harm to a child, social services have the power to get involved. I am not saying they can get the children back asap, but they can call child protection/child in need meetings involving other agencies and agree a course of action. If this is removal of the children from father, on the basis of risk then they can get a court to sanction this.

The key areas identified as abuse are: neglect, physical harm, verbal/emotional harm, sexual abuse' and within this, domestic violence can and does fall into all categories, so they should not longer dismiss it. And if they do dismiss it, take it further.

This is not instead of all the good advice given so far, this is as well as.

mumoverseas Thu 17-Sep-09 11:11:20

edam I totally agree with you but sadly the police don't have the powers to act in this situation. What doesn't help, is that the police when at training college only learn the criminal law, they don't learn the civil law and often there is a crossover. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard that police officers have said they can't act and to see a solicitor. Very frustrating.

Think I'd be a little wary of involving social services as I think once they are involved and a child is put on the at risk register, it can be very difficult to get them off.

Lets hope OP's sister has followed and advice and has seen a solicitor this morning

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Thu 17-Sep-09 11:18:19

mumoverseas it does work that simply any more, it is not an 'at risk register' or not at all, they assess a child's needs and look at what needs to be done. If they assess the child is in no danger at all, the case is closed. If there is a need to look further into this, then it will be done. Soon enough, all children will be known to social services by there very existence.

BUT, if domestic violence is bad enough to get an injunction out, rather than just leave, that implies problems that will potentially continue to spill over to the children. That means there is as risk to investigate, but more than that,it means that support can be given to the mother to help protect her children. It does not mean the children will be removed from her mother, it means they will be more likely to be returned to her.

Surely, a child at risk should be on the radar though? Why would you not want that? If it exists. If it is real enough to be angry that the police cannot do anything, it is real enough for social services to be involved.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Thu 17-Sep-09 11:21:32

for example, in the city of Plymouth, with a population of 200,000? and enquiries and reports to social services each week in the thousands, there are approx 200 children who are subject to child protection procedures, and not all of those result in the child being removed from the family. Not that many really (some might argue, not enough but indicates not all children with risk issues are deemed to need that level of input).

mumoverseas Thu 17-Sep-09 11:27:09

I appreciate that, but the impression I got from the OP was that the OP's sister didn't feel the children were at risk, she just wanted them back. Surely if she thought they were at risk with their dad she wouldn't have let him have unsupervised contact with them?

mrbojangles Thu 17-Sep-09 16:30:00

Thankyou for all your good advise.
The good news is we have the children back. Her husband eventually said we could come and collect them. My sister was pretty scared as it all felt a bit like a set up to lure her onto his families land. Unfortunately the police would not assist so we went it alone and I hid a tape recorder in my pocket. I know! All a bit hysterical but we really did not know what we were walking into. I was'nt great but the end result is she has the children back.
We have been in contact with a solicitor and we have started the process to get a residence order. It was frustratingly hard to find one that had enough funding for legal aid. Womens aid have been in contact with my sister already and we have been updating them all day.
Again thankyou... when I posted last night I really did not know what course to take and though the situation is terrible we at least have a plan.

twopeople Thu 17-Sep-09 16:37:53

Message withdrawn

mumoverseas Thu 17-Sep-09 17:08:55

good news that your DS got the children back. She must however follow through with her application for a Residence for hers and their protection in the future in case he plays silly buggers again.

twoshoes the police simply won't get involved in civil matters. I know its awful, but thats the way it is. There just simply aren't enough police officers around to deal with all the family and civil matters unfortunately

mrbojangles Thu 17-Sep-09 17:41:40

mumoverseas You are absolutely right and we have found all of this out in the last 24hs. She has a appointment with the solicitor next week and I will be taking her. There is absolutely no way I will let this go now. One of the most alarming things was the difficulty in getting a solicitor with available legal aid to see us today. The solicitors I spoke to all said that they would take on my sisters case but either they had no available legal aid left or they could not help until next week. As it now stands we can do this next week now but I shudder to think of a women in this situation without having her children returned.

adjaegham Thu 17-Sep-09 17:58:20

Hi - I've asked a question tonight which is why thought you'd be interested in the following:
My ex partner commited an act of domestic violence & he was not permitted to my house afterwards
The last 2 times he had access he took her to the pub got drunk & watched rugby in adult company (she came back with lots of presents & feeling upset dad had a woman on his knee)
the last time I asked him by email before hand for an assurance he wouldn't take her drinking etc. He ignored this and kept her against my will overnight.

He told me he wasn't bringing her back that night & I'd promised it was a day visit. Sitting in my car outside his mothers house I felt helpless - you can't make a scene, or call the police.

Legal advice was to stop all contact. Once you do that he must apply for a contact order. That contact order will state when access takes place and other things you must stick to.

That was my solicitor's advice to me, but get your own free 30mins legal advice from a professional.

I'd prefer to leave it to courts to decide access than a drunken idiot who makes his own rules up & leaves me legally helpless.

Hope this helps - it's tough, but it keeps things above board & this way you have got legal back up if he doesn't do what's agreed.

edam Thu 17-Sep-09 18:49:06

MrBo - so glad your sister has her children back. Must be a massive relief to her.

I am NOT a lawyer but in her shoes, I would not let him have any contact until I had seen a solicitor and received their advice about a. applying for a residence order and b. future contact in the short and medium term.

What you say about solicitors not been terribly keen to do anything immediately is very scary indeed. Thank heavens you were around and between you persuaded this pathetic excuse for a man to give the children back.

mumoverseas Thu 17-Sep-09 19:34:41

mrbojangles, glad your sister is getting it sorted and persuing her application for residence. In many cases defined contact is dealt with at the same time which can be helpful.
Unfortunately, there are very few firms that have public funding (legal aid) franchises now.

adjaegham, unfortunately there are also very few firms that offer free interviews now too

edam, I don't think its a case of solicitors not being terribly keen to do anything immediately, its possibly they are either too busy with existing clients/court committments or they just can't get the legal aid sorted.

I used to regularly do ex-parte (without notice) applications in this situation (usually on a monday morning) It is a very complex application with an awful lot of paperwork to be done before you get to Court and then afterwards when you have to rush off and serve the other party. I could take a good 4 hours if not longer and there are probably very few lawyers who have this amount of spare time without clients. Sometimes I had to postphone other clients or squeeze the Court hearing in between other cases.
Also, with legal aid it is a nightmare getting authority and therefore you can't run the risk of doing too much work before it is granted as you could end up not getting paid.
Sad but that is the way it is

SwissCheese Thu 17-Sep-09 19:59:57

Here are a few links you may find useful for you and your There are points for women, children and friends and family which are really good.

Encourage her to call the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline -
0808 2000 247 to talk things through and call 999 in an emergency.

Is your sister currently expecting a baby? I wasn't quite clear on if she has had the baby or not. In any case, I would encourage her to talk to refuge or the National DV helpline - her story won't be ignored or minimised and they can really offer sound advice and practical help for all parties. And yes, I completely agree with someone else's comments about the link to child abuse as although it may not be physical violence, children pick up on the fear and hear a lot...

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