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Child Custody Disputes and One Parent’s Use of Coercive Control

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If you are in a relationship where your partner exerts coercive control over you then their behaviour is likely to continue if you separate and try to reach an agreement over child custody and contact. Your partner will probably think that they are entitled to get the child custody or contact arrangements they want, without thinking about the children’s needs or what parenting arrangements would suit you.

Our specialist family law solicitors help parents find solutions to child custody disputes and are experts in child arrangement order court proceedings and in supporting parents subject to coercive control by their former partners.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

Talking about coercive control

If you have experienced domestic violence or coercive control during or after the end of your relationship it is important to let your family solicitor know. You should not be embarrassed about talking to your family solicitor about the coercive control as your information will help them advise you on the most appropriate childcare arrangements and your family law options to stop any continued harassment by your ex-partner or to end their attempts to exercise coercive control over you.

Some parents think that if their ex-partner has not been physically violent towards them that any other unreasonable behaviour does not ‘count’ or would be disregarded by the court in a child arrangement order application. That is not the case but it is crucial to let your family solicitor know about the behaviour early on so they can advise you and raise the coercive control concerns at an early stage in child arrangement order court proceedings. Alternatively, your family solicitor can use the information to decide whether family mediation should be attempted or whether specialist mediation should take place (such as shuttle mediation) so you are empowered in the mediation process.

If you raise allegations of coercive control at a late stage in children law court proceedings your ex-partner will criticise you for not raising the allegations earlier. The court may also question your motivation for making the late allegations of coercive control.

What is coercive control and why is it relevant to child custody disputes?

Coercive control is a pattern of controlling or coercive behaviour in a family relationship. It does not have to involve physical violence or restraint.

Coercive and controlling behaviour can amount to a criminal offence. You may also be able to apply for a civil injunction in the family court for a non-molestation injunction order if your ex-partner is trying to exercise coercive and controlling behaviour over you.

Coercive control can occur in any type of relationship; married, unmarried or same-sex and it can be carried out by men or women.

Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour include:

  • Refusing to allow you to leave the house without permission or unaccompanied
  • Limiting your access to money so you are under the control of your partner during the relationship
  • Isolating you from your children or from friends or family
  • Belittling you in front of the children. For example, telling you that you are stupid or mental

If you are subjected to coercive control, it can affect your self-esteem and confidence. It can also affect your relationship with your children. For example, if the children have been taught to believe that it is OK to treat you with no respect or to ignore what you say. In many situations, a parent will leave a relationship involving coercive control because they appreciate the impact of their partner’s behaviour on their children.

Coercive control or parental alienation

If you allege coercive control in child arrangement order court proceedings you may be accused of parental alienation. The concept of parental alienation is where one parent deliberately turns a child away from the other parent without good reason.

Family law solicitors say your actions in trying to restrict contact are not parental alienation if you want to protect your child from the coercive and controlling behaviour you experienced in the relationship or because you think your ex-partner is pursuing contact because they are using your child to continue to exert control over you. The family court is used to working out whether coercive control existed in a relationship and the impact of that form of domestic abuse on future child custody and contact arrangements.

How can OTS Solicitors help?

The family lawyers at OTS Solicitors you with:

  • Representation in children law proceedings for a child arrangement order, specific issue order or prohibited steps order or relocation order
  • Preliminary separation and children law advice to help you decide if separation or children court proceedings are the best option for you
  • No-fault divorce proceedings advice
  • Domestic violence and injunction applications
  • Financial settlements after relationship breakdowns
  • Mediation support

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form .

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