3.5 Supporting Steve Smith as an alleged perpetrator of domestic abuse
We are now going to look for the final time at our case study, the Johnson/Smith family. Remind yourself of the family and their situation.
Jazmin has applied for a child arrangements order in respect of Chloe. When the application for a child arrangement order is sent to Steve, he comes into the Support Through Court office to seek advice on what he needs to do next.
Steve tells you that Jazmin has made unfounded allegations about him being violent towards her in order to extort money from him through child support payments. He alleges that the injury to Jazmin was caused by her drug dealer as she owed money to him. He says that he provided everything for her and the children but that whatever he did was not enough for her.
He says that Jazmin struggled to parent the two children and used drugs and alcohol around the children. He says he had to look after the children as well as work to support them and so he is worried about her looking after Chloe. He is angry that he does not know where his daughter is living and that he has not had any contact with her since Jazmin left three months ago.
He then goes on to say that Jazmin was very volatile and emotional and would shout, scream and throw things when she did not get her own way. He spoke about being hit by items thrown at him. He says he worries that Jazmin is not fit to care for either of the two children and that she may pose a risk to them due to her violent behaviour and drug use. He wants his daughter Chloe to live with him. If this does not happen immediately then he wants contact with her overnight whenever he is not working and to know where they are living with Jazmin.
He repeatedly says that he knows he will not get a fair hearing as the courts will take the side of the mother, particularly given the untrue allegations she has made. He also is worried about the cost of proceedings.
Thinking about how you will respond to Steve, please answer the following questions. There is one correct answer to each question.
1. How would you respond to his allegations of violence from Jazmin towards him?
Say how sorry you are to hear this and ask for further details to include in his statement.
Suggest relationships can be difficult and things can easily get out of hand.
Explain how the court will take allegations of domestic violence into account in the child arrangements order and ask whether he can provide evidence of Jazmin’s violence.
Tell him he is a liar and that statistically he is more likely to have been violent towards Jazmin.
The correct answer is c.
The correct answer is explain how the court will take allegations of domestic violence into account in the child arrangements order and ask whether he can provide evidence of Jazmin’s violence.
The other responses either collude in his allegations or are judgemental.
2. How would you respond to Steve’s concern about the cost of proceedings?
Explain that he might be eligible for legal aid if he can evidence domestic abuse and is of low income, signpost him to a list of Legal Aid Family solicitors or go through the Legal Aid Checker with him online.
Explain he can represent himself and explain how the proceedings will run.
Suggest he should think about paying for a solicitor as Jazmin will probably be eligible for legal aid due to her allegations of domestic abuse.
Sympathise with his situation and the fact that Jazmin has put him in this situation.
The correct answer is a.
The correct answer is explain that he might be eligible for legal aid if he can evidence domestic abuse and is of low income, signpost him to a list of Legal Aid Family solicitors or go through the Legal Aid Checker with him online.
As he has made allegations of domestic abuse, he may be eligible for legal aid if he can evidence the abuse and his income is below the financial limits.
3. How would you respond to Steve’s anger about not knowing where the children are living?
Agree that this appears to be part of the lies Jazmin is making about him.
Explain that the court has made a procedural order to withhold the address but that this will not affect the main hearing of the case and is something he can ask the court to look at again during that hearing.
Explain the order was due to the significant allegations of violence made by Jazmin and is unlikely to be changed as her allegations are credible and serious.
Sympathise that it is difficult for a father not to know where his child is living.
The correct answer is b.
The correct answer is explain that the court has made a procedural order to withhold the address but that this will not affect the main hearing of the case and is something he can ask the court to look at again during that hearing.
The other responses are either judgmental or collude with Steve.
4. Steve asks how he can prevent Jazmin from having a child arrangement order as he wants the children to live with him. Do you:
Explain there is no point in challenging the application as the courts will usually prefer the mother, particularly where allegations of violence are made.
Suggest he needs to make an immediate application as the children may be at risk of harm from Jazmin and show him the forms to do this.
Explain which forms he needs to complete to defend the application and what will happen next.
Suggest he sees a solicitor as it is a complex case due to the
The correct answer is c.
The correct answer is explain which forms he needs to complete to defend the application and what will happen next.
You need to help him with the immediate issue at hand, as you would for any other client. There does not appear to be any evidence provided by Steve that the children are at immediate risk of harm and this may be a tactic to use the child arrangements application to further harass and intimidate Jazmin.