It’s natural to feel nervous about going to court. Adults as well as young people get nervous about this. If you’re concerned about telling the judge what happened to you or your parent in front of your abusive parent, tell the solicitor. They might be able to arrange for you to tell the judge in private or to video record what you have to say. Or the courtroom might have screens put up so you don’t have to see the abusive parent when you speak in court. The most important thing is to tell the court, your non-abusive parent and your parent’s solicitor how you’re feeling and what worries you might have.
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Giving evidence involves telling the judge about what happened at home. Ask your parent’s solicitor to describe exactly what will happen when you go to court so that you can feel prepared. The court might also arrange for you to see the courtroom in advance so that you feel a bit more comfortable about it.
People go to court for different reasons. For example, the judge can decide:
– whether and how an abuser should be punished for his or her behaviour;
– who you should live with and what kind of contact the other parent should have with you, and how this will be safe; whether an injunction should be made against the abuser (An injunction is a court order which prevents someone from doing something – for example threatening another person – and may also require the abuser to leave a shared home, and place limits on how close he may go to the victim and her home.)
Sometimes the police or courts get involved in what’s happening at home. This is aimed at stopping it from happening again and protecting you and the person being hurt. Also, although there’s no specific criminal offence called domestic violence, a lot of abusive behaviour – like assault, harassment, and criminal damage – are crimes. The police have a duty to investigate alleged offences and may decide to proceed with prosecution in order to punish the offender and protect the victim.
It’s an official court document that states who you will live with, if your parents have separated or are divorcing and have not been able to decide that between themselves. When there’s domestic violence, you will usually end up living with the non-abusing parent (usually your mum). If you’re not happy with the decision about who you should live with, it’s important that you tell your CAFCASS officer, the solicitors and the judge how you feel.
It’s an official court document that states when, where and for how long the parent you don’t live with can see you. The judge makes a decision on what the contact should be based on your needs and your parents’ needs. Contact can sometimes be indirect, such as phone calls and letters; but most often it is direct contact – that is, face-to-face time. Sometimes, the judge will order ‘staying’ contact which means that you get to stay overnight (at certain times) with your other parent.
A contact centre is a safe place where you can meet the parent you don’t live with any more. If there is or has been domestic violence between your parents, it may not be safe for you to see your other parent on your own, so you may need to be somewhere that’s supervised or where there are other people present. In some cases, too, a contact centre can make it easier for the parent you live with to take you to meet the other parent. In such cases, the judge may decide that it’s safer for you to see your other parent in a contact centre.
A CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) officer is the person who works with you and your family to help decide what’s best in terms of who you live with, and how, when, and where you have contact with the other parent. The people who work for CAFCASS are called either Children and Family Reporters or Children’s Guardians. The CAFCASS officer tells the court what’s best for you and what would make you happy, so it’s really important to tell them exactly what you want or don’t want.
“Contact” is the word adults use to describe the arrangements for young people seeing the parent they don’t live with. Sometimes your parents will decide things like where you will have contact and how often. In other cases, the court will get involved and make this decision based on things like your safety.
It’s OK to feel confused about whether you want to see your dad or not. You probably love both your parents, but felt scared of the fighting and the hurt it caused. It’s also OK if you want to see your dad, even though the parent you live with doesn’t want to see him. You can love an abusive parent even if you don’t like his abusive behaviour. You have a right to your own feelings about your parents.