Sadly many separating parents have been involved in disputes regarding their children, some of which will have gone into Court proceedings.
Parents who have not been involved themselves often have friends or family who have. However, what can be a shock for parents is when they suddenly find social services are involved in their lives.
If the Police are called to an address, by one of the parents, or by the neighbours and there is domestic abuse (this can be shouting or threats without any actual violence) if there are children at the premises the Police are required to report the matter to social services.
Social services will follow this up. The next step will depend on whether they consider the children need any further protection or whether this is an isolated incident and not likely to occur again.
Sometimes, in what started off as a dispute between the parents, one or other parent has become angry to the child and shouted at the child, or used abusive language and sometimes hit the child.
This will bring into that parent’s life both social services and the Police. Parents can be extremely upset to find that they are facing either being prosecuted or, in some cases, having to accept a caution from the Police in an incident which may have been escalated by the other parent. The Police and social services will be approaching this as to the impact on the child rather than the cause or the background.
Suddenly parents who have had no previous involvement with social services can find that a meeting is being convened to which they are invited as are their children’s teacher, GP and other professionals who may be involved in the children’s life. At such a meeting a decision can be made as to whether the child should be placed on the child in need register or indeed whether social services take any further steps involving applying for a care order.
Parents can also make allegations about one another which can be exaggerated and in some cases be simply untrue. They can see it as part of the legal process where there are contested proceedings over, say, where a child should live.
However, all such allegations have to be taken very seriously and, whilst being investigated could even lead to children having to be placed with foster carers.
Sadly, parents can sometimes feel that if they are in contested proceedings at the time, say over the child will spend with each of them allegations can be made which appear to help that parent’s case.
Parents are often shocked at the repercussions of their actions.
It is very important, at an early stage if trying to resolve the arrangements for the children seems to be escalating to take legal advice before Police or social services become involved or as soon as they do. Advice at that point on the next steps and the way matters are resolved can lead to a much swifter resolution rather than escalation through further action.
For example, a parent may receive a letter informing him or her of a meeting with social services. A parent may genuinely be unable to attend that particular time and date. A quick telephone call to the social worker usually leads to that meeting being rearranged at a time when the parent can be there. However, if the parent ignores the meeting thinking perhaps incorrectly, that it will have to be adjourned if she or he is not there, they may well find that the meeting has gone ahead and decisions have been made in their absence.